When the fool is taught by other fools
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams.
Ever read Save the Cat by Blake Snyder? In chapter 4, our author talks about writing the Beat Sheet, where you take the time to write the most important parts of the screenplay before actually writing the screenplay. A well written screenplay should have no less than 110 pages, and each beat has a certain amount of pages where each element should take place. From the first page, Opening Image (In this case, the ocean water) all the way to the Final Image (Something new; resolved). In between, we have the element of "Theme Stated". It is a sentence or a monologue that is state by someone other than the protagonist which at first means nothing to him/her, but as the pages flip, it will. I'd quote the sentence, but the joke eludes me.
The film takes place after the fallout of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. All the soldiers return to their homes, including odd ball Freddie Quell. Like all men of war, they never come back the same, but for a man like Quell, he was never normal, but unique, and war became a catalyst to what could have been his downfall, until he meets Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman) or as his followers like to call him, Master.
What is The Master? Who is The Master? Is it just the title for Hoffman's character? Is it Mr Phoenix, a man who out of the ashes has returned to the big screen at full force. An owner of a pet trying to house train their new best friend? Or is The Master a higher power? Or, a soul that inhabits all? I'd like to think it can be anything, for films like these leave the interpretation to an audience with particular taste, where no conclusion is wrong.
Scientology is present, but like the Titanic, it's simply a decoration to the focus of two character that exchange verbal tangos to make a point. Joaquin Phoenix returns in full force taking a big chunk in the lead for best actor, even though the race forthat right is still early to deduce, but we may be already looking at a winner. Here I thought Christian Bale was the master at changing his physical self to fit the role of his character, Phoenix rises as a skinny, bone-looking man with more trauma than sensibility. He drinks more than the amount of water in the clouds, and not just your average bar drunk, for he consumes his own mixtures of liquids, where one of the ingredients is paint thinner. Hoffman, with a stunning supporting character believes he can cure Quell with his cult known as The Cause. He is a man of various professional backgrounds, but above all, he's just a man with a big ego.
Like Quell, the movie is about souls, or man finding themselves in a vast natural world lost to the point of no return. Dodd believes that with his growing foundations, The Cause, he can save the world by traveling from the West to the East. Problem is, there is not satisfaction. We have the rich textures captured by the camera and it's director, Oscar driven performances, but fails to give me or anyone else peace of mind. We are left to believe that both characters will find what they seek and be happy. But their relationship is anything but friendly, they just meet and go with it. Frustrating for several reasons, whether it was meant to be, it's all about teaching an old dog some new, or "proper" tricks.
It's rare to see movies shot with celluloid, as it is now considered expensive, costly to a schedule, and outdated. Nonsense, you can't call the first of it's kind obsolete. Anderson uses 65mm film, and he captures rich light, texture , and colors that digital photography couldn't even begin to grasp without needing an alteration of the ISO. I've yet to actually use the full capabilities of my Canon T3i, but I've seen what film cameras capture in many movies and you simply can't repeat the process without alterations. Point being, there is point in the movie where you are hypnotized by the clarity, you forget you are supposed to be watching.
Overall, The Master succeeds by it's powerfully talented actors, you could forgive the rest that doesn't leave you with a smile.
Written by: Bawnian©-Dexeus.