Great cinema always inspires great writing. And going by that rule, the latest one to join the club is P T Anderson’s The Master. And like us, if you also love reading everything possible related to a film once you have seen it and love it, then you have come to the right place. Some of us have seen the film and googled everything on it so that you don’t have to. Also, there are high chances that once you have seen the film, you will have too many questions. This post has links to some of the explanations offered.
But DON’T READ ANYTHING if you have not seen the film.
The Master is finally getting a theatrical release in India this friday. It might not work for everyone but you can’t deny Anderson’s stamp of great film-making all over. So don’t miss it. And for two more reasons – it deserves to be seen on big screen. There’s no other way. If it works out well, we might get to see much better releases in the coming months.
At the end of the scene, Lancaster sings “(I’d Like to Get You On) A Slow Boat to China” to Freddie. And yes, it’s eerie and perhaps more than a little homoerotic, but it also feels like a twisted version of a lullaby — the most domestic and familial of actions turned into something terrifying and strange — making it clear once and for all that Freddie’s dream of becoming a family with Lancaster and Peggy Dodd is an impossibility. And freeing him, ironically, to try and form a new family — perhaps with Winn, the girl he’s met in the final scenes of the film, right before we see him lying next to the female sand sculpture, suggesting that his search goes on.
– Vulture has done a brilliant piece titled “What Is The Master Really About?: Five Interpretations”. Click here to read.
It’s hard to make a lot. That was one thing when I was working on The Master, they kept being like, “well, he’s got a tea kettle, and he’s making gallons of spirit out of it.” I’m like, “Mmm, you might get a shot of spirit out of a tea kettle.” Like that flask setup in the shed in the cabbage field? No way that would have produced a five-gallon glass carboy full of moonshine, unless you were working every day for several weeks. But, you know, movie magic.
– Vulture has also done a piece answering that million dollar question which everyone will surely ask after watching the film – Can You Really Make Booze Out of Paint Thinner? Click here to know the answer.
The haunting, utterly inward stillness of the actors in “The Master” is one of the director Paul Thomas Anderson’s most apparent achievements, and it’s no mere ornament or element of dramatic plausibility—it’s at the core of the film, as is the very question of performance as such.
– New Yorker’s Rochard brody has written a long essay titled “The Astonishing Power Of The Master”. Click here to read.
In “The Master,” we’re often left gasping for air, as in the scene when Freddie is required not to blink for a painfully long stretch of his processing. Or because of the sheer beauty of some of the compositions. Warts, wanderings, reiterations and all, this is a film destined to be processed in many different ways. And hallelujah to that.
There are hints of an erotic relationship between Freddie and Dodd’s daughter (Ambyr Childers) and a not-too-veiled suggestion that Dodd’s paternal yearnings for Freddie are complicated by other desires. But at the risk of issuing a spoiler of sorts, beyond a bewildering point-of-view sequence when Freddie imagines that all the women at a Philadelphia cocktail party are naked, this is a film suffused with sexual desire that has no sex in it. If you look at “The Master” through the lens of Paul Thomas Anderson’s body of work, this is a prelude to the world of “Boogie Nights,” a disordered America where nobody was getting any that led straight to the disordered America where everybody was getting too much.
All of this striving — absurd, tragic, grotesque and beautiful — can feel like too much. “The Master” is wild and enormous, its scale almost commensurate with Lancaster Dodd’s hubris and its soul nearly as restless as Freddie Quell’s. It is a movie about the lure and folly of greatness that comes as close as anything I’ve seen recently to being a great movie. There will be skeptics, but the cult is already forming. Count me in.
So where does this leave “The Master” on the Anderson landscape, that oddly populated terrain? Few modern films have been as crowded as “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia,” and few have been more lonely than “There Will Be Blood.” The new work sways toward the latter. I kept expecting, and even hoping, that Dodd would acquire a tinge of Elmer Gantry—that he might start to muster large throngs to the Cause, with Freddie employed as the muscle to keep the mob in line. But the scale of the story, for all Dodd’s swagger, remains compact, and the plot slowly condenses into a blend of character studies. Look at Amy Adams in closeup, for instance, all the scarier for being so perky and correct, her features filling the screen as she quizzes the reprobate. Or look at Phoenix, lifting his head high and proud, as Brando used to do, with an added, cranky stiffness that comes from having, or being, a serious pain in the neck. The eyes narrow and the mouth is awry, one corner twisting into an Elvis curl, though it looks too sour for seduction, let alone song.
Why do you make things so difficult? Else it wouldn’t be fun.