Winter 2013 Features series
Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 4:00pm
Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 7:00pm
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring Amy Adams, Joaquin Phoenix, and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Rated 14A ·
Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, The Master is a striking portrait of drifters and seekers in post World War II America.
We meet Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix, Reservation Road, Walk the Line), a troubled, tortured Naval veteran. After making a mess of his postwar job as an in-house photographer in a department store, Quell gets into trouble because of the toxicity of the moonshine he enjoys cooking up. Then, one night in 1950, completely drunk, Quell wanders onto a yacht docked in the San Francisco Bay, passes out, and wakes up in a world he never imagined.
That world is under the control of Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman, A Late Quartet, Doubt), the charismatic leader of The Cause, a new human potential movement, who claims he has found a way to “return man to his inherent state of perfection,” and who enjoys being called “Master” by his small group of followers. Dodd describes himself to Quell as someone who does many things—writer, doctor, nuclear physicist, theoretical philosopher—but who above all is “a hopelessly inquisitive man.”
The ideas behind The Cause, as we get them in bits and pieces, turn out to be a witch’s brew of psychology, mind control and science fiction that involves spirits from outer space, past lives and a battle Dodd characterizes by saying, “this is something you do for billions of years or not at all.”
The heart of The Master are the scenes where Dodd and Quell have at each other, especially the situations where Dodd applies psychological techniques he calls “processing” to his at-times reluctant adept.
“This is a superbly crafted film that’s at times intentionally opaque, as if its creator didn’t want us to see all the way into its heart of darkness. It’s a film bristling with vivid moments and unbeatable acting, but its interest is not in tidy narrative satisfactions but rather the excesses and extremes of human behavior, the interplay of troubled souls desperate to find their footing.” (Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times)
“The persistent assumption about the film is that it’s the story of Scientology. This may well be what Anderson intends. There are some similarities between Lancaster Dodd and L. Ron Hubbard, the writer, philosopher, scientist, theologian, and seaman who, in the early 1950s, was sharpening Dianetics and the tenets of Scientology. But, more generally, the film is interested in a cult of personality.” (Wesley Morris,Boston Globe)
“In its intricate dance of loyalty and betrayal, The Master stays seductively enigmatic.” (Peter Travers,Rolling Stone)
“It’s one of the great movies of the year—an ambitious, challenging, and creatively hot-blooded but cool toned project that picks seriously at knotty ideas about American personality, success, rootlessness, master-disciple dynamics and father-son mutually assured destruction.” (Lisa Schwarzbaum,Entertainment Weekly)