This review may contain spoilers, if it is possible for one to spoil it It's rare for me to want to go and see a film again right away after first seeing it.
In fact, this didn't even do that; after first seeing The Master, the new film by the brilliant Paul Thomas Anderson, I was just left feeling very uneasy about what I had just seen.
I had enjoyed it, but I wasn't entirely sure how much or why.
When I thought about it a bit and then saw it for a second time however, it all made sense.
I recently had a discussion with some friends about the role of the film critic and whether one should merely describe a film and reflect opinion without spoilers, or whether they should be adding to the general critical theory of a film.
While I'm not going as far as calling myself a film critic, nor that it's really early enough to properly consider where this film ranks in the critical canon of Paul Thomas Anderson's work, I'm finding it difficult to write about this film without really going in to it, largely because PTA implores us to (hence the warning).
The Master is not a film about Scientology. It's worth making that clear right away.
It takes influence from it, but it is more about family dynamics and psychology (and how these can be manipulated into any valid train of thought).
What we have here is three central characters, all of who are fairly unredeeming and unforgivable, and none of who particularly progress in anyway in the film.
It is a film about frustration of the highest order, and that includes us as viewers at times, one is often left feeling 'why do I care about any of these people? Why do I find them so compelling?' A lot of that is down to PTA's wonderful direction, there are many blink-and-you'll-miss-them moments where a brief movement or piece of dialogue tells so much with so little, and the fact that all three of Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour-Hoffman and Amy Adams are utterly brilliant.
The dynamics between just them is compelling enough (more on that later) let alone for the equally great but occasionally marginalised supporting cast, many of whom are reduced to only a couple lines.
For this is primarily a film about a patriarchal (and from one end, possibly homosexual) relationship between two men who "inspire something in each other".
Seymour-Hoffman's Lancaster Dodd, The Master, is infatuated with Freddie Quell (Phoenix), as more of a son than his own, Val (Breaking Bad's Jesse Plemons), or his inherited son-in-law Clark (Rami Malek), as a test subject for him to validate his wild theories upon, and perhaps even as a lover.
Quell however is a stowaway on an alien ship constantly running from his problems (or at least escaping from them with his dangerous cocktails) who perhaps would like to express himself more eloquently, but has some rather disturbing sexual/patriarchal/violence issues, which may outlast his time at war against the "Japs", but certainly don't help.
He is dislocated and lost like the generation before him who survived WWI, and is easily snapped up into the sinister claws of The Cause.
The two see something in each other that they themselves are lacking: intelligence/action, (perceived) stability/freedom, a "conventional" family/vice and desires... read more at www.ravechild.co.uk
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