It felt as though I hadn’t been to the cinema for ages (well, six weeks or so!) and so, when I saw in the Watershed’s blurb that “The Master” had received several 5-star reviews, I decided it was a film I really needed to see. Paul Thomas Anderson’s film (he directed “There Will Be Blood”), starring the formidable Philip Seymour Hoffman and the fascinating and somewhat scary Joaquin Phoenix (incidentally, I think I’m going to change my name or at least start introducing my middle name!), is set in post-war America and feels as if it’s tracking the story of Scientology (with Seymour Hoffman playing the part of L Ron Hubbard) – although, apparently, Anderson denies this. Seymour Hoffman plays the part of a fraudulent cult-leader (“The Master”) and Phoenix is a twisted, violent, virile(?) alcoholic who has been discharged from the navy with psychological problems and the subject of “programming” by Seymour Hoffman. It’s a long (and, at times, tedious) film – perhaps a rather sad love story in many ways. It’s mysterious and powerful but, at the same time, appears rather pompous, boring and somewhat pointless.Having written the above, I’ve just read two reviews in The Guardian.
Rachel Cook reckons it’s a “long, inscrutable film, and one deeply in love with its own processes. Watching it is like being stuck in a one-way system in a strange town; with every loop, it grows more familiar and yet more confusing”. Meanwhile, Peter Bradshaw (5-star review) regards it as “brilliant, mysterious and unbearably sad, in approximately that narrative order. It is just that brilliance and formal distinction, together with a touch of hubris in the title, that could divide commentators” and a “supremely confident work from a unique film-maker, just so different from the standard Hollywood output: audacious and unmissable”.
Take your pick (personally, I think Rachel Cook is closer to the mark)!