Thursday, October 18, 2012

"What is your name?"- The Master"

My very first blog post was about the trailer for P.T. Anderson's "The Master." The film is about Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a drifter after World War II, who falls  in with the Cause, led by Lancaster "The Master" Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). The Cause is very similar to Scientology, references to trillion year old souls and vessels, not the mention other planets at one point. Still the Cause is rarely described in the film, although Dodd's writing is like that of L. Ron Hubbard, referenced as bad and contradictory by some. However, to understand the Cause has nothing to do with understanding the movie.

The movie starts of with Freddie at the end of his Pacific Tour with the Navy. The movie soon reveals he makes cocktails that include chemicals, mostly unknown, but among them are a liquid from a torpedo and paint thinner. After incidents involving his nervous condition and these cocktails, he finds himself running away from an accident, which leads him to the boat of Lancaster and Peggy  Dodd (Amy Adams), celebrating the marriage of his daughter with other members of the Cause. Lancaster does not find anything wrong with the obviously mentally unstable Quell, so Dodd invites him to join. In the processing scene (auditing for Scientologists), Dodd asks Quell many questions, such as "What is your name?" over and over and over. This was a very memorable, if not a fascinating and uncomfortable, scene. I know this post is very plot heavy, but that is all I am going to say on plot besides that the movie is about Quell wanting to fit in.

To expect this movie to say something about Scientology will leave you somewhat disappointed. Quell does get involved and become a devout follower of the only man who seems to like him, but the movie is really about Quell. I think that any cult, such as Jonestown or the Branch Davidians, could have been used in the movie, but the post-World War II period was an interesting time when many people were getting involved in group and I think that really helps the film's plot overall.

P.T. Anderson is a great director; so many scenes build tension and he knows how to keep you interested, although the long running time and some of the slower scenes fight against him. The shots were beautiful and the movie is wonderful to watch. The music by Johnny Greeenwood of Radiohead was phenomenal, which helped to build the tension that I previously mentioned. The three leads all gave top notch performances, but I only see Hoffman getting an Oscar nomination this January.

The story was a bit long and you might be asking your own questions, such as "what was the point?'" or "what did that mean?" I really enjoyed it, but I don't know if I would call it a must-see film. There have been many fascinating movies this year, but if any one kept me thinking about the subject matter so intently after I left the theater, it was this one.

I showed the trailer in my last blog post, so here is one of the best short previews I found.

Here is a bit of Greenwood's score.

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