My unfiltered thoughts about everything.
Paul Thomas Anderson has never been one to lay bare the point of his films in any obvious way. He paints master class puzzles in human depth perception and leads audiences willing to humor him on something of an intellectual mind bender. He’s an artist in the strictest sense of the word, a man with complex ideas about simple things. He can make something as innocous as drilling for oil look like the prying open of the Ark Of The Covenant. He can make sex seem so purposefully dull that you’re reminded its nothing but animal instinct. His work is not meant for a popcorn and Coke. It’s more suitable to an aspirin and some Brandy.
The Master is his latest opus, a snarling, neurotic venture into post traumatic stress disorder, sexual addiction and mans loss of will power. It’s a beautiful beast of a movie, at times intoxicating and , at others, joyfully repulsive. Distantly channeling the L. Ron Hubbard archetype, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Lancaster Dodd, a self made guru who’s “prophetic works” of literature have gained him a small yet growing cult. He’s seemingly selfless and power hungry at the same time, a rock of modesty shielding the sinister rage of a child. He keeps his ducks in a row to a point of OCD. Hoffman never allows Dodd to become a caricature. He’s charismatic, funny and devilishly Hitleresque in his ability to control the people around him, his wife, an Oscar teasing Amy Adams, the most far gone. She is his loyal counter part, at times controlling of Dodd herself, when she feels he has strayed from his own teachings.
But Jauquin Pheonix is the star here, crashing into Dodds isolated utopia like a hammer through stained glass. His character, Freddie Quell, is the bastard child of a thousand bad dreams. Between his obsession with sexual intercourse, penchant for beating strangers senseless and his odd talent for making alcoholic drinks out of everything from paint thinner to coconut water, there is no place for his kind in Dodds universe of order and calm. Yet that seems to make Dodd all the more intrigued. What follows is a difficult film full of hard questions with no easy answers. The tango of these two diametrically opposite human brings is something you won’t soon forget, though you may leave the theater wondering just what their obsession with one another amounts to. Is it paternal, perhaps even mildly Freudian?
Critics have made a lot of noise about the films relation to Scientology. In truth, its got very little to do with that specific religious idea. It’s much more broad, much more about the relation of doctors and patients, liars and the deceived, etc. If it does indeed paint any picture of “cult practice”, its one of many people being easily convinced of anything as long as its said in a steady, reassuring tone. It’s a hard movie, a very hard movie. I found it rewarding, though, in ways I’m still realizing days later. It’s not the landmark home run Anderson’s last film, the career defining There Will Be Blood, was. But I don’t think Anderson meant it to be. He’s not interested in such trivial matters. He’s an artists artist, a generator of uncomfortable thought. Mission accomplished.