The Master (2012)

The Master
Directed and written by Paul Thomas Anderson
(number on the 447)

In the manner of films such as Wake in Fright or perhaps more appropriately, the Men Who Stare at Goats, this is essentially a film about one broken man getting into strange circumstances which he doesn’t understand. These circumstances are hard for us to understand as well, the nature of the way the story is told is obtuse, hard to understand and unfolds in its own time.

This story is about Freddy, back from fighting in the second world war in the Pacific. He’s a drunk, messed up thug who’ll try and solve any problem with his fists. Somehow he connects to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s strange Master, the leader of a movement concerned with awakening men and reconnecting them to their past lives. He’s, as always, magnetic in his performance, and Phoenix is, as ever, exceptional at portraying a broken man.

The movie is supposed to mirror the psyche of Post WW2 America, but I find it hard to speak to that myself.

Amy Adams is amazing as Hoffman’s wife, the redoubtable woman who assists in the processing, is kind and soft spoken, but ready with a motivational slap when needed.

Exquisitely acted, fiercely beautifully filmed, but just a bit too… male and obscure for me maybe. Right now.

Does it make me love the people?

It doesn’t seem like it should, but it does. Peggy truly cares for Lancaster, and Lancaster truly cares for her and for Freddy. For all his disciples. You want Freddy to overcome his boozing and his violent ways and you want Lancaster to stay out of jail.

Bechdel test: There’s a brief moment where Peggy leaves a scene talking to Mildred about her pregnancy and food, but it’s more like filling in a bit of space while we pay attention to the men. I’m not sure that should count as passing – this movie is primarily about the relationship Freddy has with the world, and the movie is his point of view.

Best line:

Lancaster Dodd: Your fear of capture and imprisonment is from millions of years ago. You are not there. You are asleep.

State of Mind: I …. Uh…. a bit unimpressed to be honest. I wanted more than this.

But I do love how Lancaster remembered how they’d met…

Lancaster Dodd: I recalled you and I working together in Paris. We were members of the pigeon post during a four-and-a-half month siege of the city by Prussian forces. We worked in raid balloons, delivered mail and secret messages across the communications blockade set up by the Prussians. We sent 65 unguided mail balloons and only two went missing. In the worst winter on record. Two.


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