The Master (15)

Film

Drama

Master, the.jpg

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Posted: Mon Sep 3 2012

Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘The Master’ riffs on the early roots and allure of Scientology with the same compelling strangeness and heady intensity that the American writer-director of ‘Boogie Nights’ and ‘Magnolia’ brought to his last film, ‘There Will Be Blood’. ‘The Master’ is another tale of warped power and fanatical delusions, and it sees Anderson on captivating form as a director who is able to surprise and impress with scene after scene.

Some of the pre-release talk about ‘The Master’ sought to distance its gaze from Scientology, but the film is less equivocal: the organisation depicted here by Anderson may be called The Cause and its leader Lancaster Dodd (played with a frenzied, red-nosed exuberance by Philip Seymour Hoffman), but Dodd is clearly modelled on L Ron Hubbard, from his physical appearance and his eccentric theories to his claims to be a writer, a scientist and much else besides. The parallels are many, and the disguise is so thin as to barely exist.

But you can understand why Anderson didn’t want to get too bogged down in facts. His interest is as much emotional and psychological as historical. He creates a totally beguiling character, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), to lead us in and out of Dodd’s bizarre world. We meet Quell at the end of World War II, a disturbed sailor obsessed with drinking and sexual fantasies (images of him and colleagues frolicking on a beach look like a Bruce Weber photo shoot gone rogue). Phoenix plays Quell with an alienating intensity; he’s unpredictable from the first frame to the last.

It’s through Quell that we meet Dodd, an amiable patriarch and leader of a small band of followers afloat on a ship, who takes this unhinged loner under his wing, and applies to him the methodology of The Cause, indulging his troubled mind and propensity for violence. Most of the drama unfolds over a few months in 1950, first on the boat and later at the house of a patron in Philadelphia, although scenes of Quell going through ‘processing’ (an intense form of analysis) inspire flashbacks to earlier days.

‘The Master’ is driven by a spare, jaunty and eccentric score by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. Anderson dominates the rarely-used 65mm format – his close-ups are overwhelming and his longer shots are deep and layered, even seeming 3D-like at their most inventive, with colours and detail brilliantly evoked. Hoffman and Phoenix are at the top of their game, with Phoenix giving a hunched, deranged turn that flits between a childish search for acceptance and a hair-trigger air of violence.

As a depiction of a burgeoning religion, it’s like a portrait of Jesus from the perspective of one of the lesser known disciples: the Gospel According to Quell. We learn that Dodd is a bacchanalian figure, fond of fun and power, prone to extreme anger when challenged and adept at extracting funds and time from his loyal supporters. Anderson asks: why do men such as Dodd and Quell come together? What do they need from each other? How do they sustain each other’s fantasies?

His answers partly lie in a portrait of the needy meeting the powerful. But there are also suggestions of more inscrutable psychological and sexual motives for such alliances. It’s also a commanding portrait of America at a very particular point in time: Anderson may keep his drama close to a few key characters, but he also offers a strong, disturbing sense of a world turned upside down by war and of a chaos that allows the strange new order of The Cause to emerge.

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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Nov 2, 2012

Duration:

144 mins

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

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3.6 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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  • 4 star:7
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|39
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ian

an interesting portrait of two men both on the borders of madness If only Phoenix could have been cast as Kerouac in "on the road"

DutchFilmFan2013

Philip Seymour Hoffman will probably go home with his second Oscar (this time in the Best Supporting Actor category) in about three week's time. Joaquin Phoenix was very good as well but I do not think that he can best Daniel Day-Lewis in the Best Actor category this time (Hugh Jackman was very good as well in Lez Miserables as Jean Valjean). I was not really moved by the story in this film but the acting of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams (she might have to wait for another time for her Oscar which she will most definitely get one day, I think, as Anne Hathaway would simply be unbeatable this time as Fantine in Les Miserables in the Best Supporting Actress category in my humble opinion) had my complete attention from beginning to end.

DoigtdePoisson

Technically speaking, it is certainly a good movie, with very strong performances, slick direction and convincing epoch reconstitution. A timely thought-provoking piece too, given the worrying rise of personality cults and self-proclaimed ‘thought leaders’ - leadership seems to be the opium of today’s most aspirational and power hungry segments of the managerial middle classes , Orwell’s 1984 was visionary! - self help / life coaching gurus and proliferating best-selling, sermon-giving popular philosophers indulging in prescriptive sectarian discipline and outright intellectual charlatanism. What a joke. A pity therefore that this movie does not really address, in my opinion, the pseudo-charismatic and absolutely flawed nature of such ‘Masters’, and that one in particular clearly deserved a serious critical treatment! This film seems, on the whole, bizarrely sympathetic to the Cause and strangely generous in portraying its leader and powers… – or is that supposed to be part of the thought-provoking dimension? Let’s assume it is. Interesting that it ends in Great Britain.

Peter Ludbrook

I was looking forward to this movie in the light of so many favourable reviews and my appreciation of both 'Magnolia' and 'There Will Be Blood'. Within 15 minutes both my companion and I realised we'd made a terrible mistake. Notwithstanding that we endured the film's interminable 144 minutes in the hope that things might improve. I kept wondering what else I might be doing. Reading a book perhaps, listening to music or, joy of joys, watching a decent movie. Yes, the film looks terrific. But the lack of engaging characters and a gripping plotline were major failings. Freddie Quell is a badly damaged war vet. Unfortunately he's also one of those people who, in the abstract, you feel sympathy towards. Hower confronted with the reality of his character all you want to do is escape from him. It doesn't help that Phoenix mumbles his way through most of the film. I'm increasingly irritated by films that purport to be in English but would benefit from the presence of subtitles. No such problems afflict Hoffman's Lanacster Dodd, the charismatic charlatan at the heart of the film. Every piece of piffle is audible. The only honest person in the film is the son who cheerfully observes that his father "makes it up as he goes along". Then there are the acolytes, credulous and gullible, willing to believe anything, put up with any indignity and hand over their money in the hope of self--improvement. Top this all off with the most intrusive, oppressive score I've heard in a long time and you have, in my view, the most overrated film of the year and the one I've enjoyed least. It gets one star for the photography.

Ambrosia

The best film I've seen this year, in fact in several years. The acting was superb, the cinematography beautiful and the platonic love story of the two main protagonists, Lancaster Dodd and Freddie Quell, was both touching and utterly compelling. I don't know how anybody could have been bored by it. I was enthralled and two hours just flew by. There was nudity, but it certainly wasn;t obscene - unless you consider the naked female form offensive, which I don't. The Master is a wonderful film and I'd highly recommend it for filmgoers who enjoy a challenging and very different movie experience.

Ambrosia

The best film I've seen this year, in fact in several years. The acting was superb, the cinematography beautiful and the platonic love story of the two main protagonists, Lancaster Dodd and Freddie Quell, was both touching and utterly compelling. I don't know how anybody could have been bored by it. I was enthralled and two hours just flew by. There was nudity, but it certainly wasn;t obscene - unless you consider the naked female form offensive, which I don't. The Master is a wonderful film and I'd highly recommend it for filmgoers who enjoy a challenging and very different movie experience.

Eva

Awful! Boring, no storyline, or plot. I actually started falling asleep half way through it. I can't believe this got 5 stars!! Simply terrible. You have been warned!

Marek

Fine film, deserving of its awards. Direction is superb,-as is the acting, particularly from Seymour-Hoffman. After being almost suicidal after watching Amour, how refreshing was this film. Recommended viewing.

Marek

Fine film, deserving of its awards. Direction is superb,-as is the acting, particularly from Seymour-Hoffman. After being almost suicidal after watching Amour, how refreshing was this film. Recommended viewing.

Numpty

If you take a distant defined reference point on the sky-line (such as a tv arial).. close one eye and position your line of site carefully.. prop your head securely.. relax, and extend, extend, your perceptive time scale.. you can JUST about discern the moon's motion- actually SEE it slide across the sky..... . The pace here is of watching a deep river drift by, languid and leisurely, with little whorls and eddies. I found myself progressively drawn in.. mesmerised by the slow drift and swirling patterns.. With 'engaged detachment', if there is such a thing? . Thoughtful, measured, beautiful, grown-up film making. (will sadly be lost on many)

Numpty

If you take a distant defined reference point on the sky-line (such as a tv arial).. close one eye and position your line of site carefully.. prop your head securely.. relax, and extend, extend, your perceptive time scale.. you can JUST about discern the moon's motion- actually SEE it slide across the sky..... . The pace here is of watching a deep river drift by, languid and leisurely, with little whorls and eddies. I found myself progressively drawn in.. mesmerised by the slow drift and swirling patterns.. With 'engaged detachment', if there is such a thing? . Thoughtful, measured, beautiful, grown-up film making. (will sadly be lost on many)

Carol

The film is not so good and was really looking forward to it.Acting superb plot disjointed and unrealistic .Phoenix menacing as freddie but really he looks so ill and disturbed!?Hope he is fine and it was mostly acting he looked over thin and tortured!!!The film seems like a missed opportunity and the plot seemed almost incoherent but I would watch anything with Phoenix in as he is a most compelling actor witha chameleonlike persona

Jack

just not worth the hype, despite great acting and cinematography there is no plot.

Leon

Anderson has decided to allow character alone to sustain his film and has forfeited the reader's involvement. When the French novelists (and some film makers) of the 50's and 60's tried desperately to overcome the limitations of a narrative driven by character and plot, they attempted, with varying success, to substitute the reader (or viewer) as the source of creative impetus for the text. This meant providing sufficient visual stimulus to provoke the reader's responses, thereby allowing the reader's (viewer's) emotions to participate in the construction of the drama. Anderson has shaped two characters of great promise but whose interaction remains essentially unchanged and unprovocative throughout. As a result the film provides little or no stimulus through which the viewer can engage in the construction of the narrative. The viewer as spectator may work for comic strip film but in the absence of dramatic plot the audience must share in the creation of the film.

long cat

Did Dave Calhoun see the same heap of excrement I've just had the misfortune to watch? This movie is utter boredom. It has only ran 1 week at my local cinema and I'm not surprised as some great stars are wasted in this bland tedious story. I wouldn't follow the Master if he bribed me a zillion quid as he has as much charisma (in the film) as used toiletroll. AVOID

jack

This one of the worst bits of cinematography I have ever watched. The cinema was empty except for a few people, who were asleep. Some mediocre acting. This film should be banned and never again viewed in the civilized world. P.S Age rating incorrect full of obscene nudity that added nothing to the film and mindless swearing.

H &amp; M

Agree with above that the acting is brilliant, not only from Hoffman and Phoenix, but others in the cast as well (possibly Oscar nominations) However, the film left you wondering how 2hours 20 mins could be filled with such tosh (a word overheard from an elderly lady at the the same showing)

chrisppy

The Master is unmastered by me!Clapham Picture House is always a joy to visit.But the film was strange difficult even with great 'performances' by Hoffman and Phoenix. I wondered had I been duped but reading the above I was not alone.It appear on the site

Jay

The Master is a masterpiece. Having recently seen it (sadly not in 70mm) the film just pulled me in immediately once Phoenix hit the screen with his precarious attempts at chopping coconuts. From that moment on i knew we were in for something quite unpredictable. The pacing is similar to 'There Will Be Blood" with the performances just devouring the screen time. The Scientology similarities are obviously on the surface, and it questions how one person - however charming - can defraud those suffering some kind of post-traumatic stress, or mental illness. The inter-play between Phoenix and Hoffmann was mesmerising: Phoenix with his gaunt, haunted expression, random bouts of violence, and awkward posture. And Hoffmann who plays the ambiguity of the character flawlessly. My only gripe is that it slighty loses it's legs towards the last quarter, but it didn't stop me from being intoxicated - like the character, Freddie Quell - throughout. 'Master' filmmaking with a fantastically primal, elegiac score byJonny Greenwood score thrown in.

Jay

The Master is a masterpiece. Having recently seen it (sadly not in 70mm) the film just pulled me in immediately once Phoenix hit the screen with his precarious attempts at chopping coconuts. From that moment on i knew we were in for something quite unpredictable. The pacing is similar to 'There Will Be Blood" with the performances just devouring the screen time. The Scientology similarities are obviously on the surface, and it questions how one person - however charming - can defraud those suffering some kind of post-traumatic stress, or mental illness. The inter-play between Phoenix and Hoffmann was mesmerising: Phoenix with his gaunt, haunted expression, random bouts of violence, and awkward posture. And Hoffmann who plays the ambiguity of the character flawlessly. My only gripe is that it slighty loses it's legs towards the last quarter, but it didn't stop me from being intoxicated - like the character, Freddie Quell - throughout. 'Master' filmmaking with a fantastically primal, elegiac score byJonny Greenwood score thrown in.

Alan

I very much agree with the review by Richard here. The acting by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix is very good, and the film is cinematically well made, but these two things alone are not enough for a film to be enjoyable. Absolutely nothing happens in the film, and it seems really long and dragged out. I prefer slower, more intelligent films (such as The Shipping News and Midnight in Paris) to action blockbusters, but found The Master to be interminable. I should have known the way this would go after seeing a close-up shot of Joaquin Phoenix's eyes at the very beginning of the film that went on for about two minutes! After about halfway, I felt like I myself was being subjected to "processing" by The Cause – the series of infuriating and repetitive tasks that members of the cult are made to carry out or sit through. There is no reason for this film to be nearly two and a half hours long. The (lack of) story could have been told in 90 minutes, and preferably less. It makes Waiting For Godot look like Star Wars. It would have been good if the film showed more about the development of The Cause over time and how people were attracted to it, but there was very little exposition of this central theme of the film. The only thing that happens regarding the organisation is a minor change in dogma (I'm sure it's intended to be a very, very major change!) of the "four legs good, two legs better" from Animal farm variety. The Master has "made for Oscar success" written all over it. It is intended to be a serious piece of grown-up cinema that probes a number of "issues", such as the nature of power, relationships, alcohol addiction, the scars of war and damaged personalities, but it is actually a long-winded ramble with no direction and no plot. The director seems to think that occasional outbursts of violence will stand in well enough for twists and turns in the story and change of pace, but they do not. How some of the other reviewers here can go and see it two or three times in quick succession is beyond me. I just wish I'd followed the example of other people in the cinema when I saw it who walked out halfway through, or at least taken the opportunity to catch up on some sleep. If you enjoy slow, rambling "oscar-worthy" films where nothing happens except "acting", then go and see The Master. If you prefer a film to actually have some kind of pace and story to keep you interested then don't go anywhere near this film – ever!

cazza3110

a pile of pretentious, self-indulgent twaddle. We left after an hour, shortly behind another group who had just walked out. Our departure prompted another exodus. Fine acting is not enough. This is a classic example of a film that only the critics like, encouraging the masses to waste their hard-earned cash to see it. not at all recommended

Robert

This is undoubtedly a well acted and well made film, which has lots of atmosphere, but the script is devoid of subtlety and there is no plot. None at all. Well before half way through what already seems like a long film you realise that the film is going nowhere and at the end you know that you would not have missed anything if you had left half way through, except a step change in the film at the end which made no sense. The only reason to see this film is so that one does not feel that one has missed a good film when one reads some of the film reviews, but in my book that is not a good reason to see it. Avoid.

Ian

Maybe I missed something but in a 90% empty screen I am sure I wasn't the only one to be disappointed by the film. Hoffman is excellent and Adams shows a new depth in her performance but Phoenix does his same old petulent brat act. A good film but not quite excellent. For me a good 3 star 7 out of ten not the best thing since sliced bread some make it out to be.

Dave from Melbourne

Brilliantly acted film - which I guess is about the allusive search for the Master which even the titular character admits he cant pin down. So this is basically the story of a hedonistic chancer who makes a living putting up a grand scheme even he knows is BS, but at the same time this man has compassion and he reaches out to try to steer the a deeply troubled Freddie to a batter place. Males you think of the damage some people carry and the world of fiction that not only scientology but all religions are built on.

Katy

This is an exceptionally well-acted film. However, I can't see the reason behind all of these gushing critic reviews. It's incoherent in places and veers too close to being pretentious. The characters and issues are all left dangling in mid-air by the (silly) end of the film.

john o sullivan

If you can see this in 70 mm its a delight As for 5 stars..well its the best film of the year but not without its flaws overlong with a random ending that will irratate most still it commands your attention at all times and is blessed with 3 great performances Adams gets better every film one reviewer said he liked this more a second time and is how i have felt about the directors earlier work so a definite reccomend

will

Possibly will be best film of the year! It is amazing in every aspect! Do yourself a favor and see it!

will

Possibly will be best film of the year! It is amazing in every aspect! Do yourself a favor and see it!