Sep

24

 THE MASTER

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Joaquin Phoenix as the skanky ex-WWII sailor, Freddie, who falls under the sway of The Master played by Philip Seymour Hoffman has a broken-backed posture that is ape-like, consistent throughout the film. His arms curve down, into his unhealthily skinny, strange parenthesis of a body, like a starved gorilla's, ready to break someone's skull—if they say or do anything that runs counter to Hoffman's Lancaster Dodd, a Hemingway-cum-L. Ron Hubbard amalgam with all the animal charisma, robustness and pseudo-sagacity of those epic characters. Is his Master at peace with such overreach? Dodd waggishly calls Freddie a "naughty boy" after such explosive incidents of lethal enforcement: Here is his useful tool for control of others.

Dodd's "processing" of the Id that is Freddie is not a cost-free transactional process. Freddie's mother is institutionalized. His sexual hunger is about debasement, not lust. He is a composite of a feral wild animal.

The unhinged, barely civilized Freddie meets the happily idolized Dodd as a stowaway in the latter's boat as it rounds from San Francisco through the Panama Canal, up to NYC. It is the 50's. Hoffman cannily corners the near-savage bootlegger Freddie for his own purposes, in a dysfunctional dynamic that manages not quite to quell the furtive Freddie of his internal demons and bad parentage. Freddie does not even require direction from the force-field puppeteer, Dodd: He easily slips out and kills those who question the conman cult-meister of The Cause, a shoo-in for takeover -ologies like Scientology.

The film has ravishing setpiece after setpiece befitting the accomplished director of BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997), MAGNOLIA (1999)—which shares this film's excoriation of strata of perhaps-corrupt society, and the grim hematology of THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007). Here, though the performances by the principles, including a primly demonic Amy Adams as Dodd's steely controlling, artificially beatific wife, Peggy, we are at a loss as to why all this energy and fury are expended for a topic that, distanced by some 60-odd years, means less to us than his prior cinematic subject matter did. Other than the news wagged by the Cruise shocker divorce initiated by a fed-up Katie Holmes, what meaning does the film convey, except to beware of Elmer Gantry-esque charlatans selling snake-oil "cures" for personality defects? In a parallel that may escape notice, Freddie has concocted a powerful alcoholic quaff that he sells to the eager unsuspecting. Like highly bruited China's exported foods adulterated with sweet melamine that go undetected until a baby or pet somewhere dies, Freddie makes his power likker using 'sweet' but toxic derivatives that pack a bigger punch, shall we say, than the average mini-umbrella cocktail.

There are anguished scenes involving de-programming effects that are treated the way Roman audiences at unfair gladiator vs. hungry lion spectacles were treated, or like the inane wealthy viewers of THE HUNGER GAMES (2012) were treated: These are just tickle your fancy entertainments, although we know, if we have an iota of decency, they are immoral and a crusty abuse of decency. There is a 'dream' sequence involving an entirely unnecessary signing Dodd, complete with naked ladies and fully clothed men. It serves no purpose other than as a fevered interlude for prurient rise in testosterone. Or whatever. I found it utterly unredeemed by anything preceding or following it. It could as easily have been excised and the film lose nothing.

The verbal and acting hijinks on screen immobilize the audience, but no good comes of it. You watch with queasy disgust, find yourself reacting with distaste and a push-pull desire to leave, while wanting a satisfactory resolution. Which never arrives.

Though MASTER is up for several European awards, chiefly for the two protagonists going at each other with such implacable force and verbal weapons, you leave your seat angry, uneasy, unsatisfied and perturbed. This is not to say that the filming itself does not capture the time it deals with. There are striking tableaux every few minutes. The jail sequence between Freddie, crashing his toilet out of rage, juxtaposed against the calm, almost professorial Dodd, standing with elbow crooked against the upper bunk of his neighboring cell, is a classic-to-be. But let Europe choose its poison: This is a masterfully filmed ugly film that does not teach us anything we did not already know, nor provide us with an elevating entertainment. It's one reason one avoids horror films—we know what there is coming, and if gore is not your chosen menu du jour, you steer clear.

Reactions range from robotic admiration for the many technical proficiencies, the cinephile's gotta see it, to the view that the protagonists are busy chewing the scenery and the movie as a whole is a visual feast but a mess.

To the extent that audiences buy in to this feast of sordid and nasty, we need worry about the direction of the population. TV is free, relatively speaking. To pay to see this, dragged into this muckish spectacle, is a judgment one must anguish over. The inkling of good the film might supply is the wakening of millions to the dangers posed by demonic and ungloved movements (and 'leaders') like Scientology, which historically stop at nothing to silence their detractors.

Is Anderson subtly signaling that we are blindly following the lemming example of a latter-day Pied Piper? Or is this just a movie?


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2 Comments so far

  1. Anonymous on September 26, 2012 7:30 pm

    Jericho (1966 TV series)

    In the same year 1966, the American ABC network featured 20th Century Fox Television’s Blue Light that also had a World War II setting that lasted 17 episodes. Blue Light featured a musical theme from MGM composer Lalo Schifrin whilst MGM’s Jericho had its theme composed by Fox’s Jerry Goldsmith. Both featured American secret agents portrayed by Canadians.

    The show primarily failed as it was shown opposite ABC’s popular Batman.[

    1949–1966: Bull market. The Dow posts impressive growth in the booming economy following the Second World War. Starting from about 150 in June 1949, when P/E ratios reach multi-decade lows, the index ends just five points below 1,000 on February 9, 1966.
    ————-
    Jericho (TV series)September 20, 2006

    The show ran on CBS from September 20, 2006, through March 25, 2008. It was initially canceled after its first full season because of poor ratings. While a fan campaign was able to convince the network to bring the show back for a seven-episode second season, it was canceled for a second time after that run. On November 20, 2008,

    September 20, 2006, through March 25, 2008 major stock high
    —————-
    Revolution September 17, 2012

    Revolution is an American post-apocalyptic, dystopian, dramatic television series created by Eric Kripke for the NBC network. It debuted on September 17, 2012 and airs on Mondays at 10:00 pm. The network placed a series order in May 2012.
    —–
    Sociologically speaking, we saw it during the Great Depression - the rise of authoritarian political movements of left and right, the great isms - communism, fascism. Anyone who thinks ideology is so 20th century and is so passe may have a nasty awakening.

    -John McLaughlin

    The latest Batman movie is still going strong, despite dropping from its number one position. The movie has already grossed more than $389 million and arguably is today’s main American cultural icon. Batman stands for order, justice and honor. And yet there may be another attribute. Batman is a capitalist, the savior of the free market. The Dark Knight Rises takes place in Gotham City, and Gotham City is a portrayal of the world at large, the real world. The ultra-wealthy playboy Batman is pitted against the movie’s villain, Bane, who is a self-identified radical. Bane stages a popular uprising against the city’s stock market and against the investment class. Mob violence and chaos result - what Batman must battle. In the Wall Street Journal, author Andrew Klavan calls the movie a bold apologia for free-market capitalism. The film confronts tyranny and violence of radical leftists, like those of the French Revolution or those of Occupy Wall Street.


    The Dark Knight is a 2008 epic superhero film directed, produced, and co-written by Christopher Nolan. Based on the DC Comics character Batman, the film is the second part of Nolan’s Batman film series and a sequel to 2005’s Batman Begins. Wikipedia
    Release date: July 18, 2008 (USA)
    Bottom of the US Dollar

    The Dark Knight Rises is a 2012 superhero film directed by Christopher Nolan, who co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Jonathan Nolan and the story with David S. Goyer. Wikipedia
    Release date: July 20, 2012 (USA)
    Bottom of the US Dollar…? when Athens burn…along with some others..

    ——-when it comes to money, wealth, power nothing is left to chance..’nothing’ all is for the life and breathe of money itself.

    ———-NFL. “But this one was just a blatant bad call at the end of the game that … won $150 million for a total swing of $300 million on one debatably bad call,” Bell said. …. BILLION in legal bets after that call in the Seahawks/Packers game.

    ‘Nothing is left to chance in Washington’…

    who said that..LOL//

  2. Al on October 3, 2012 11:52 am

    Fantastic review! Here’s mine if you would like to read?
    http://mostrecentlywatched.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/themaster

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