The Master: a veteran returns home and is eventually taken under the wing of a charismatic charlatan. To get the ‘acting’ chat out of the way, Joaquin Phoenix turns in a career-defining performance of a multi-layered borderline perverted post-war wayward career alcoholic who is – we’re led to believe – physically and mentally disabled – it’s an acting accomplishment of the highest order. PSH is good, but – and I know it’s ridiculous to say – you always expect big shouty performances like this from him now. The rest of the cast are top dollar, but only appear for minutes at a time. The film itself is rather vague; part psychology, part character study, part love story, part drama, part coming-of-age, part religious historical… it feels very unplanned and ill-though out. It borrows some major themes similarities from There Will Be Blood, and to a lesser extent harks back to Magnolia, and the similarities between “The Cause” and Scientology’s beginnings, and leader, are about as subtle as a brick to the face – it was almost silly to not name it. The Master is a strange one: the subject matter’s interesting, the acting’s top-drawer, it’s beautifully shot (so much so that plenty scenes resemble ‘art’ more than ‘cinema’) … but the way in which it’s edited, and the often bizarre content of many scenes’ make it infuriatingly alienating. By the end of this 140 minute endurance test, I was long disinterested. It’s a shame that some magnificent performances are upstaged and drowned out by such irreverent cinematic and narrative wankery (for the second time in two weeks!).
I’d probably rate The Master higher than a 3, but I can totally see your point. I”m still not sure what I think of this movie. I know that it’s showing up all over year-end lists, but I can’t say that I enjoyed the experience very much. It’s such a head-scratcher that it likely takes another viewing or two to really dig into it. Is that a good thing? I’m not sure. Regardless, I’m with you on the acting, which is just great across the board. It also looks amazing.
I just discovered your blog and really like the short format. I’ll be coming back soon!
It’s definitely a unique film, and one that will probably be the cause of great debate over the next few years. Just wasn’t my thing. To pinpoint it after a few months, I really disliked the plotless plot, and the fact that you’re never really sure how much time is passing between the scenes.
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