187 of 228 people found the following review helpful
PT Anderson, an American Beckett,
This review is from: The Master (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) (Blu-ray)
This is a film about people searching desperately for a key to unlock the secrets of existence. And it focuses on two characters: one who can find no such key and one who convinces himself and others that he has found such a key. The former is Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) who we first meet on an unnamed beach in the South Pacific during the last days of WW11 and who we follow for some time as he unsuccessfully struggles to quell internal turmoil and establish some semblance of normalcy in post-War America; and the latter is Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who is also battling unnamed dragons but who seems to have found some form of inner peace as the leader of an order/cult that promises members that human perfection is achievable in this lifetime if members allow themselves to be unlocked by Lancaster Dodd's magic key (which he calls processing). When Quell stows away on Dodd's yacht the two seem to recognize some common quality in each other. Dodd takes an interest in Quell's curious life, and as Quell learns more about Dodd's methods so do we. Processing is essentially psychoanalytic questioning that seeks to help members identify and neutralize past traumas so that they can eliminate negativity from their present lives and achieve that hoped for perfection. Its psychoanalysis but its psychoanalysis with a difference, the difference being that members are encouraged not only to recall past experiences but also to recall past lives. A lot has been made of the fact that this philosophy is loosely based on L. Ron Hubbards Scientology, but the film is less interested in the specifics of the actual philosophy than in the need of its followers to believe in something. This desperation to believe in something, however outlandish, is what interests PT Anderson (and what will resonate with audiences). This film is as intense as they come but its long and is not as consistently entertaining as the directors previous work (although for all of the reasons just mentioned it is his most ambitious and interesting). Its most powerful moments come when Dodd plays psychoanalytical father to lost pupil Quell. Quell's desperation and Dodd's need to dominate his pupil is palpable in these scenes that are unlike any I've seen in an American film. Quell's need to accept Dodd as a father figure is matched by an equal need to reject him as a guru. We're not asked to accept Quell as any kind of hero, just as an eternally lost soul. Freddie Quell, an existentially lost man for whom there are no answers, stands as the perfect antithesis to Lancaster Dodd, the man who refuses to live in a world where there are no answers (even if this means that he himself must invent those answers as he goes along). This is as existential as American filmmaking gets. There Will Be Blood may have wider appeal because it is about something all Americans can relate to, Greed. This film is about something fewer Americans will connect with: the meaninglessness of existence (or at least the difficulties of living without any existential certainties). This film is two hours long and there are no obvious payoffs, and some may hold PT Anderson accountable for the fact that there are no transcendent truths in The Master. But that is what makes this film so unusual and so daring.
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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 26, 2012 11:46:36 AM PDT
Great review, but hard to read with a large block of text. Can you break it up a bit? Thanks.
Posted on Sep 29, 2012 6:28:16 AM PDT
Paul G. Peterson says:
I love yr review and feel the same way about this film. The Master is the best damn thing to happen to me in a movie theatre in a long time. I'd given up on the chance of encountering a mainstream film that was serious about its business. the language of yr review matches that level of seriousness, and i salute you, sir.
Posted on Oct 2, 2012 2:30:29 PM PDT
I'm going to see the film tonight...but I like your review. It's thoughtful and attempts to give meaning to this film that so many have called "unfathomable." I do agree with Scotman's comment...please consider breaking into paragraphs. It is hard to read in such a big block. I know that this shouldn't be an issue, but I simply found myself getting lost occasionally.
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 2, 2012 2:31:02 PM PDT
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 19, 2012 7:34:43 AM PDT
Kieran F. Johnston says:
Excellent review. I strongly disliked this film because there is no "event" or sequence of events that added up any kind of meaning--the movie reminded me of Leaving Las Vegas and Under the Volcano--movies about entropy and devolvement into alcoholic chaos. If I want evidence of these states, I can attend an AA meeting.
Your review has widened my take on this film, but I still felt like a voyeur in the lives of people I would rather not visit, as they yielded no appreciable insight, at least in my case.
Posted on Dec 17, 2012 5:07:56 PM PST
Tony Z says:
Awesome really. Insanely great.
Posted on Feb 18, 2013 4:46:44 PM PST
Donald K. Gordon says:
That was an amazing review I just got done seeing the movie and it's like you poured my brain out of the paper Well done sir
Posted on Feb 25, 2013 11:14:22 PM PST
G. Little says:
Great & apt review of the film.
Just wanted to add that the comparison of PT Anderson with Beckett fits really well with regard to the habit of both men in their work to sever what would be an integral character into multiple parts/roles. Anderson has done this sort of thing several times before, and it's bound to his use of fate or predestination in his plotting (even Barry Egan and Dean Trumbell in Punch Drunk Love are like complimentary psychological components of one fate or urge). The "antagonisms" in the work of both are more like fitful conflicts of one scattered mind. And in The Master I felt as if PTA committed himself fully to his own style and long-standing narrative premise--and in so doing made something that's almost avant-garde, an experimental film, with a story rooted in the quack-y experiments of Dodd performed on his difficult, exemplary subject Freddie (he's to Dodd like e.g. the "Wolf-Man" was to Freud). The whole film feels probative - much more concerned with the vagaries and almost supernatural accidents of the birth of a creed (The Cause, in this case) than with the business of an established cult or organization...It ought to go without saying that this theme won't resolve in dramatic action scenes--but some viewers were hoping for just that...
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2013 10:51:35 PM PDT
Amazon Customer says:
Are you his brother? (Thanks for the review. an underestimated film indeed)