Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Master (2012)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Writer:    Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast:       Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Laura Dern

A naval veteran Freddie (Phoenix) arrives home from the second world war unsettled and uncertain of his future-until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader, Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman). Dodd is attracted to Freddie initially by the drink that he gives him which is made out of several industrial/household chemicals like Paint thinner. For Freddie it is a case of someone who is actively being interested in him and also it might be a case of him liking an authoritative figure around him. 

I had seen it when it got released and found it to be good but requiring multiple viewing to appreciate it more. It took me three viewings to fully appreciate P T Anderson's previous one, 'There Will Be Blood'. I finally got round to watching The Master again after listening to Anderson's interview with Marc Maron in the WTF podcast. When the film got released, most of the publicity it got was because of Lancaster Dodd's character being based on the Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. I am not that interested in that particular comparison mainly because we in India are so familiar with all these God Men/Women like figures and 'Art of Living' fraudsters. So it was better for me to view Dodd as such a generic sort of character and the conflicts that he goes through keeping with his lies is an interesting angle. I do think most of these people are just living their lies rather than actually believing in the kind of shit that they come out with.

Both Dodd and Freddie need each other. Dodd is surrounded by his family members and the cult. Some of the family members like his much younger wife, daughter and son-in-law are very much into the cult either being fully bought into it or as a matter of convenience. His son is of the view that Dodd is just making up shit as he go along and Freddie is also under that impression even though he want it to be the other way. When Dodd's wife warns him of Freddie being a negative influence and not really into the cult, he makes him go through the ridiculous programming process and we see how conflicted Freddie is when doing it. There could also be a homo-erotic angle to their relationship but sometimes they come across as a father-son combo or just friends. Freddie needs him but can't put up with all the other bullshit that comes with Dodd. Dodd needs Freddie to escape from the cult he is surrounded with, at least fleetingly.

Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead continues his collaborative partnership with P T Anderson which started with 'There Will Be Blood'. It is a 'tour de force' acting performance with all three of them earning academy award nominations. Film was shot in 70 mm which has become a sort of fad with Tarantino and Christopher Nolan also joining the bandwagon. They have at least saved Kodak with some of the studios guaranteeing a quota of films to be filmed in the traditional way. To sum up, I still find the film to be something that I admire rather than really love. That was the case with 'There Will Be Blood' also before the third viewing changed it to something that I love. To end it on a tragic note, Philip Seymour Hoffman had his first drink in 23 years at the wrap party of the film, leading to a relapse of his alcoholism.

Rating: 4.5/5