Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"The Master"

Anyone who goes to see "The Master" expecting a reasoned (or indeed an unreasoned) critique of Scientology will be somewhat disappointed - indeed, since writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson owes a great deal to his friend Tom Cruise (who did excellent work in his magnificent "Magnolia"), it would be unrealistic to expect any kind of one-dimensional exposé. While Lancaster Dodd and his movement are obviously modelled on L. Ron Hubbard's life story, methods, ethos etc., the film is more of a character study - the story of the physically, spiritually, morally and psychologically broken World War II veteran Freddie Quell's journey towards redemption, and beyond. It manages to take as its theme the transformative power of love and faith, whilst being sceptical about both. Joaquin Phoenix is startlingly, hauntingly intense as the deeply damaged hero, the camera focusing intently on every tic and grimace. Philip Seymour Hoffman is equally compelling as the worldly guru Dodd, a multi-layered force of nature, with Amy Adams quietly impressive as his iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove wife; and Jonny Greenwood's score is subtly creepy. Clocking in at nearly two and a half hours, "The Master" is sometimes an uneasy watch, but in a medium where generic narrative is the norm, it's refreshing to be wrong-footed at almost every turn. One of those films which one relishes more in the recollecting than the experiencing, it is a worthy addition to Anderson's astonishingly accomplished and idiosyncratic oeuvre.


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