Monday, September 17, 2012

The Master

Veteran American film critic Roger Ebert gives Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest ‘The Master’ two-and-a-half star, which is measly, to say the least, especially when the film has been hailed as almost-masterpiece elsewhere. It won awards for the director and the actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix at the recently concluded Venice Film Festival.

Now, it would be nice to see how the world reacts to this review, especially when Anderson has been hailed as a genius following his last film, 'There Will Be Blood.'

Ebert begins his review: Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" is fabulously well-acted and crafted, but when I reach for it, my hand closes on air. It has rich material and isn't clear what it thinks about it. It has two performances of Oscar caliber, but do they connect? Its title character is transparently inspired by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, but it sidesteps any firm vision of the cult religion itself — or what it grew into.

And Ends: This is the first movie filmed in 65mm (and projected in 70mm, in select markets) since Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet" (1996). It's a spectacular visual experience. You notice that in particular when Dodd mounts a motorcycle on a huge flat plain and roars into the distance. Then he returns, just as Vincent Gallo did in "The Brown Bunny," although I doubt this is intended as a homage. "Now you do it," Dodd tells Quell. Quell roars off. Eventually Dodd and companions trudge off under the desert sun in search of him. Whether they find him, I won't say. What the motorcycle demonstrates, I can't say.

Paul Thomas Anderson is one of our great directors. "The Master" shows invention and curiosity. It is often spellbinding. But what does it intend to communicate?
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Another American film critic I greatly admire, Andrew O’Hehir of, is more indulgent. He writes: “The Master” is more like an abstract, ominous tone poem about male loneliness in postwar America than a docudrama about Scientology founder and best-selling author L. Ron Hubbard, even if he’s clearly the inspiration for Lancaster Dodd, the character played here by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Whether or not that’s a good thing I cannot yet be sure; “The Master” is very much the kind of intentionally difficult film that will inspire repeat viewings and heated arguments, at least among a small cadre of adherents. (In this respect and others, Anderson may feel some kinship with Hubbard.) But I can tell you that if you’re expecting a sweeping social portrait of a Hubbard-esque prophet and/or a charlatan and his life and times – something like what French director Olivier Assayas delivered for the 1970s terrorist Carlos the Jackal – you won’t find that here.
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And, Calum Marsh is another unhappy critic. He writes: One of Paul Thomas Anderson's best qualities as a dramatist is that he knows the value of a minor gesture. His style is measured and deliberate, but it's also true that he's less overtly meticulous or detail-oriented than, say, Stanley Kubrick, to whom he's increasingly compared. Anderson's sensibility hovers a few degrees above the minutia: In his films, the focus is on the repetition of a phrase, a trickle of blood down a forehead, a tracking shot into a club. These gestures carry all the weight. In his underrated Punch-Drunk Love, the "big" moments—Adam Sandler's sudden explosions of rage, for instance—had a gravity at odds with their otherwise largely comic surroundings, and that dissonance proved dynamic and interesting. His major follow-up, There Will Be Blood, dived headlong in the other direction, swung like an iron fist away from dynamism and toward an unwavering, one-note brutalism equal parts exhilarating and exhausting. Anderson's characteristic gestures oscillated there between depressing and alarming (often very unexpectedly, as when a long piece of drilling machinery falls and crushes a rig worker suddenly), each horror stacked upon the last like a mounting tower of pain and suffering. The ultimate effect was substantial: There Will Be Blood remains something of a high-water mark for a cinema of blistering miserablism, and, now that The Master has arrived and proved disappointing, it's still P.T. Anderson's best film.
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The Master is a drama film written, directed, and co-produced by Paul Thomas Anderson. It was given the green-light in May 2011, and began filming in June 2011. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Laura Dern. The Master was released on September 14, 2012, by The Weinstein Company in the United States and Canada. The film had its premiere at the 69th Venice International Film Festival in September 2012.
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