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The Master (2012)

Paul Thomas Anderson

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#61 Overstreet

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Posted 01 September 2012 - 08:06 AM

Huh.

Curiously, a scene that was part of one of the original trailers for The Master in which Phoenix’s Freddie Quell screams at Dodd, “I know you’re trying to calm me down, but just say something that’s true!” was not in the version screened in Venice this morning. Nor was a scene in which Quell is being questioned about “an incident.”


The latter scene, not in the movie? Either Anderson's really teasing us by making trailers out of deleted scenes, or he cut what appeared to be a substantial exchange after the trailers were prepared.

I'll be the folks at Criterion are salivating now just over the potential "deleted scenes" feature for this movie. (Then again, Criterion has yet to add an Anderson film to their library, don't they?)

#62 Overstreet

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 02:40 PM

The Silver Lion, because it won too many awards already to qualify for the Golden Lion?

The closing of the 69th Venice Film Festival this evening was awash in confusion, and the preamble to the prizes appears to have had its share as well. Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master took the most kudos with the Silver Lion for directing and a shared best actor Volpi Cup for Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. However, a person close to the process confirms they understand the jury originally wanted to give the top prize Golden Lion to The Master, but was hampered by rules that don’t allow for one film to be too heavily weighted. Tonight, the Golden Lion was given to South Korea’s Kim Ki-duk for redemption story Pieta. That film was very well-received during the festival and indeed was the one that most conisdered a challenger to The Master.



#63 Christian

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Posted 14 September 2012 - 07:05 PM

We all know the reviews will be mixed, so why highlight just one? Because it comes from a man who was so impressed with There Will Be Blood that he made a still from that film the cover image of his highly regarded book on the movies.

He's disappointed.

I have been an enthusiast of Paul Thomas Anderson, from Hard Eight to There Will Be Blood. I wanted this film to be great; I did not see how it could fail to be a large challenge. Yet now I have the gravest doubts as to whether it is really about anything, in the sense that Magnolia was about the unceasing efforts of a great circle of people to live honestly and dishonestly at the same time. A stronger comparison may be made with There Will Be Blood. That is a parable, set in a semidesert America, with implacable opponents, the ruthless capitalist Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), and the meek, hesitant Paul Sunday, and his preacher brother, Eli (both played by Paul Dano). The success of There Will Be Blood had less to do with Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil! than with the unity of physical isolation and moral confrontation, and the Satanic force of Day-Lewis’s Plainview.

I continue to harbor doubts that There Will Be Blood, which is impressive in many ways, "is really about anything," so maybe I'll view The Master as meaningful in ways that Thompson doesn't/can't see.

Edited by Christian, 14 September 2012 - 07:06 PM.


#64 Darryl A. Armstrong

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Posted 14 September 2012 - 10:33 PM

We all know the reviews will be mixed, so why highlight just one? Because it comes from a man who was so impressed with There Will Be Blood that he made a still from that film the cover image of his highly regarded book on the movies.

He's disappointed.


This review strikes me as being less about the film and more about the reviewer's expectations (that apparently weren't met). He name checks Ayn Rand and throws out this: "There should be more sex and violence, and less time for reflection. The film should hold our America in the balance."

Maybe. But not having yet seen the film myself, I don't see why it should need to do any of those things.

I continue to harbor doubts that There Will Be Blood, which is impressive in many ways, "is really about anything," so maybe I'll view The Master as meaningful in ways that Thompson doesn't/can't see.


There Will Be Blood was in many ways a banal film, but I think profoundly so (if such a thing is possible). I'm not sure it had anything to say, so much as it is an expertly crafted mirror held up to amoral capitalists, insincere evangelists and the push and pull between those as pillars of "the American dream" (although I think tying it too closely to America and "the American dream" is probably selling it short - although understandable - but might explain the reviewer's expectation that this film be more about holding America in the balance).

#65 Christian

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 08:14 AM

There Will Be Blood was in many ways a banal film, but I think profoundly so (if such a thing is possible). I'm not sure it had anything to say, so much as it is an expertly crafted mirror held up to amoral capitalists, insincere evangelists and the push and pull between those as pillars of "the American dream"


Yes! I'd like to single out your summary as the best description of the film I've ever read.

#66 Tyler

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 11:54 AM

NPR interview with Jonny Greenwood about The Master's score.

#67 Tyler

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Posted 15 September 2012 - 03:01 PM

Grantland's Zach Baron on "The strange, brilliant, sweeping career of Paul Thomas Anderson."

Some movies you walk out of knowing everything there is to know before the credits finish rolling; some movies you wake up in a cold sweat 14 days later and can't remember how you got home, let alone exactly what you thought of what you saw. Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is the second kind of movie.



#68 Ryan H.

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 07:49 AM

I continue to harbor doubts that There Will Be Blood, which is impressive in many ways, "is really about anything," so maybe I'll view The Master as meaningful in ways that Thompson doesn't/can't see.

This may be true. But the more I read about THE MASTER--even from those who praise the film to the heavens--I have begun to wonder if Anderson may have taken his love of ambiguity too far, to the point where THE MASTER just kind of fizzles rather than crackles. Even many of the positive reviews comment on how the film doesn't really progress during its second half.

I'm still looking forward to the film, but I've lowered my expectations.

Edited by Ryan H., 16 September 2012 - 07:49 AM.


#69 Timothy Zila

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 01:37 PM

I continue to harbor doubts that There Will Be Blood, which is impressive in many ways, "is really about anything," so maybe I'll view The Master as meaningful in ways that Thompson doesn't/can't see.

This may be true. But the more I read about THE MASTER--even from those who praise the film to the heavens--I have begun to wonder if Anderson may have taken his love of ambiguity too far, to the point where THE MASTER just kind of fizzles rather than crackles. Even many of the positive reviews comment on how the film doesn't really progress during its second half.

I'm still looking forward to the film, but I've lowered my expectations.


Fair enough, but you could also say the same thing about any number of things: 2001: A Space Odyssey comes to mind. What the hell is the last half of that movie about?

I also think There Will Be Blood is, indeed, about something, although what it's about (and the way it's 'about' it didn't become clear until repeat viewings.) For one thing, it's about one man's hatred for everything but his own self gain and his failure to realize all the good around him. What really came across the second time I saw the film was how pathetic of a character Daniel Plainview is. Now, on one hand, that's really obvious. But on the other hand, it didn't come across emotionally on the first viewing because I didn't care about Plainview.

The second time, though, the film taught me to care about him despite the person he was. For me, the film is very much a Citizen Kane type story (and one that, quite honestly, resonated a lot more for me than that film). You could reduce it to some didactic moral point such as "wealth doesn't satisfy," but it's really more about how we can refuse to be contented with anything, and choose to see the world as utterly despicable and worthless when it's really us.who are despicable and worthless

It resonated with me so much, to be honest, because I can see bits of myself in Daniel Plainview. I can see that extreme pessimism and distaste in a way I can't see it in Kane. Kane seems something like a fairytale - a grand tale about a grand man. There Will Be Blood, as it ends in Plainview's house on such a pathetic note, ends up being more a little film about a man who is littler than everyone else around him. Where Kane hinges on revealing a mystery that is little more than a plot point, Blood hinges on revealing a mystery rooted in character and deep personal (and moral) failing.

So I find it hard to say, after experiencing so much with the film, that it isn't "really about anything." In the least, it means a lot to me personally, and I find it hard to believe that other people don't feel the same way (granted what it means to them might be very different than what I have crudely outlined above).

#70 Christian

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 02:26 PM

So you don't think the film is about the Paul Dano character(s)?

#71 Timothy Zila

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 02:54 PM

No, lol. Do you?

From a structural point of view, he's Plainview's foil, and the film unfolds (albeit in its loose, expansive manner) as a conflict between the two men. I wouldn't say it's not about him, as he's obviously an important part of the film, but there's a sense in which he's just the other side of the Plainview-coin, so to speak.

It seems to me that both characters are despicable for the same reasons. The only difference is one of 'flavor,' so to speak. Plainview hates religion, and hates that Dano's character uses religion as a means to gain and exert power. But Plainview's doing exactly the same thing - only without the facade of religion.

In that way, it seems to me each character's hatred of the other should ultimately amount to self-hatred. They're rivals because, deep down, they're the same, but both characters are unwilling to recognize it. Plainview can call the Dano character a hypocrite and thus exonerate himself (remember the importance of Plainview proving to the community that, when he sends his son away, he's not being a hypocrite?), in the same way Dano's character can claim God's divine calling and differentiate himself from the 'secular' aims of Plainview.

So, actually, I suppose the film is about him just as much as it's about Plainview, since neither character could really exist without the other, since the film defines the two men in opposition to each other.

Edited by Timothy Zila, 16 September 2012 - 02:57 PM.


#72 Christian

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 03:04 PM

I'm laughing as I try to wrap my head around your post above. No offense, really. But I think the problems with TWBB are evident right there in your post. If you don't see those as problems, then I suppose you'll love the movie. I admire it very much in some ways but can't quite figure out what I'm supposed to make of its central conflict. Your theory is as good as any other, which is to say, it's not very convincing.

The fact that no theory I've read takes full account of the film's central dynamic has me increasingly convinced that PTA himself wasn't sure what he was going for in terms of meaning. But I agree: It's a heckuva film. And some great movies -- 2001, Marienbad (don't care for the latter, but my opinion doesn't change the consensus) -- are deliberately obscure. It's not as though TWBB can't be obscure. But its fans have sometimes tried to spell out what the film means, which factors into why they think it's great. Their unconvincing arguments to that end have forced me to keep my distance.

Edited by Christian, 16 September 2012 - 03:05 PM.


#73 Timothy Zila

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 04:06 PM

I don't know, I don't feel like anything I wrote (or not the majority of it, at least) was that much of a 'stretch.' Maybe I'm just crazy, though. Posted Image

Is everything I wrote implicit, rather than explicit, in the film? Well, sure, of course it is, but I don't see why that's a problem. I don't claim anything I wrote to necessarily be anything more than the film's personal meaning to me, but I do contest that it's arguably all there, waiting to be found. I won't deny that there's an element of literary criticism involved in this kind of discussion (i.e., we're taking things we noticed and tracing them through the film, trying to make sense of them, in a way the film didn't necessarily intend). But still, I don't see how that's a problem.

You'd have to spell out what you mean in more detail for me to understand exactly where you're coming from.

And yes, I'm perfectly fine to let TWBB just exist. It doesn't have to 'mean.' But the idea that any narrative is devoid of any meaning also strikes me as rather odd. Even the stupidest film (insert some horrible Will Ferrell film, for example), I would argue, has meaning, regardless of whether it's apparent, consistent, obvious etc.

And I don't think there's a one-to-one relationship between authorial intent (did P.T. Anderson know what TWBB 'means') and meaning. Art can have 'meanings' the author was unaware of, didn't intend, and might have even contested. We shouldn't conflate meaning with intent.

Edited by Timothy Zila, 16 September 2012 - 04:11 PM.


#74 Timothy Zila

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 04:15 PM

The debate we're having here (or at least the one I'm having with myself), also reminds me of a debate featured in the Daily Beast over The Master.

Here's an excerpt:

Ramin: Since everybody has such a vastly different reading of what The Master is about, that to me suggests a shortcoming on behalf of the filmmakers. Even they don’t know what they are trying to say.

Marlow: But aren’t the best works of art, whether it be film, television, painting, etc.—open to vastly different interpretations? I don’t think this denotes any form of shortcoming on behalf of the artist; rather, in the case of The Master, I believe it means that PTA has made a film that will be analyzed and studied by scholars for years to come



#75 Ryan H.

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Posted 16 September 2012 - 06:25 PM

Fair enough, but you could also say the same thing about any number of things: 2001: A Space Odyssey comes to mind. What the hell is the last half of that movie about?

Whatever else you can say about the second half of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, it certainly goes somewhere, and a pretty big somewhere, even if we can debate the significance of said events. (Personally, I've never thought 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY to be as difficult or vague as its made out to be, even if it does have some deliberate ambiguities.)

Though it's interesting you bring up 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, since THERE WILL BE BLOOD repeatedly cites images from that film. Few of THERE WILL BE BLOOD's interpreters have taken that into account.

#76 Darren H

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 09:35 AM

Given his age, it kind of annoys me how good a writer Ignatiy Vishnevetsky is. He nails my thoughts on The Master almost exactly. I say "almost" because I think the film is more about post-war trauma (psychological, spiritual, sexual) in America than he gives it credit for.

#77 Nick Olson

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 10:58 AM

Thanks for pointing out Ignatiy's piece, Darren. It's refreshing to read a thoughtful piece on the film that can't be boiled down to "DON'T EVEN TRY TO MAKE SENSE OF THIS MOVIE!"

#78 Anders

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 06:33 PM

Given his age, it kind of annoys me how good a writer Ignatiy Vishnevetsky is. He nails my thoughts on The Master almost exactly. I say "almost" because I think the film is more about post-war trauma (psychological, spiritual, sexual) in America than he gives it credit for.


Agreed. It's rare that I don't find Ignatiy essential reading on film.

Didn't try to get to this film at TIFF given my small window for films, since I figured I'll get to it when it goes wide in a week. Shame to miss the 70 mm projection, but I'm hoping that the Lightbox might bring it back in that format sometime this fall and I'll make the trip into the city.

#79 Overstreet

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 06:55 PM

After seeing this movie, I don't know whether to hope that Joaquin wins a pile of acting awards or that he gets professional help... or both. One of those performances that makes me hope what I'm seeing is acting.

#80 Tyler

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Posted 17 September 2012 - 08:40 PM

After seeing this movie, I don't know whether to hope that Joaquin wins a pile of acting awards or that he gets professional help... or both. One of those performances that makes me hope what I'm seeing is acting.


So, it's more I'm Still Here than I'm Still Here was?





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