February 18, 2013

The Master

Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012


My immediate reaction to this film is the same as my reaction to "There Will Be Blood": I knew i liked it, just not exactly sure how to explain why. Just like "Blood" it is Paul Thomas Anderson doing a character study on a flawed person... or many people. You get the feeling that The Church of Scientology provided some inspiration to Anderson for his two hour + runtime. You basically see a charismatic Cult leader in action as he wows crowds and hopefully indoctrinates some new followers from city to city. During these nomadic sequences you watch as they struggle to find footing and maintain credibility within their following, and to create some formative principles for the group that will have a long-standing impact.

I wonder if this is the style that Anderson will pursue in his film-making at this point forward. This is a long journey from Boogie Nights and Magnolia. Those films seemed heavily stylized and you just don't see that visual element in his last two films. Its strange, because Magnolia and Boogie Nights were also character driven, but not with the many layers of the onion as you see in There Will Be Blood and The Master.

Phoenix's character is a lonely drifter named Freddie Quell who is introverted, yet aggressive. He is un-grounded. I wondered during the film whether or not he suffered from PTSD. This could contribute to his primal nature, that at times is disturbingly stripped of any sense of etiquette. His has little boundaries, if any. His character acts on id impulses without a sense of consequence. Philip Seymour Hoffman's character Lancaster Dodd is intelligent, yet devious. His character possesses that "it factor" that creates this magnetic energy that his followers gravitate to. He can get up, cocktail in hand, and give a humorous and concise speech that has everyone in the crowd attentive and wanting more. These characters are so complex that I find myself a day later still thinking about them. You got to see them develop in a sense, but there was no fragmented beginning, middle or end to the film. Its certainly a stream of consciousness from PT Anderson. If he continues to make films like this, I'll be right here waiting.

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