September 22, 2012

The Master

THE MASTER was really terrific. I have grown very fond of PT Anderson's show-don't-tell, anything can and will happen style. This was not as good as There Will Be Blood, but it's a brilliant, riveting, and unsettling character study. A-minus.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is The Master, a spiritual leader in post-war America, a genius at drawing desperate souls into his cult of personality. His brand of path-finding gibberish is brilliant. The parallels to L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology are obvious. Joaquin Phoenix is a psychotic, alcoholic drifter whom Hoffman draws into his inner circle. Don't expect much more story than that. There's no a-b-c character arc. The minimal plot makes it tough to keep the pace moving, there's an almost inevitable soggy slow portion three-quarters of the way through.
Ace performances from Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams (who previously played Father and Sister together in Doubt; they were both in Charlie Wilson's War too). Adams is not just a pretty face. She's downright scary in this film. If she's deliberately walking away from girl-girl roles, I don't care, the results are terrific. Must have been a change of pace from The Muppets? Joaquin Phoenix went a little too Method for me, with his contorted face and lockjaw dialog. His self-destructive jail cell scene was wayyyy too Raging Bull.
Sometimes I feel Jonny Greenwood's musical scores in PTA's movies are reflexively avoiding traditional Hollywood scoring. I watched the full trailer for Lincoln this week, featuring another John Williams score, and I imagine Anderson repulsed and sneering at its lyrical beauty.
Also worth noting: the movie was shot in 65mm, and the fine grain and gorgeous detail was worth it. The Master is the first fictional film shot in 65mm (not IMAX) since Ken Branagh's HAMLET in 1996 (which I saw projected in 70mm at the Kendall.)
"Sixty-five millimeter" can mean several things; check out the examples (below):
Most movies that are still shot on film, are 4p 35mm (far right.) Which of those three other formats was The Master shot in? I did some digging. Cigarettes & Red Vines posted these photos of the negative cutting:

Red Vines rotated and reversed that photo to show us a positive image (see right)- The Master is shot in "five perf" 65mm, meaning there's five perforations (sprocket holes) per frame. According to Pro Video Coalition, nearly 75% of the 137 minute movie was shot in 65mm.

THEATER NOTES: I saw The Master at the Landmark Embassy in Waltham with my lovely wife (thanks to the in-laws for babysitting) and kudos as well to the aging boomer audience who remained completely silent throughout the film. I would have lost money betting on couples chatter. I assumed the plot was opaque enough to cause folks to narrate for their spouses, but perhaps the movie was so gripping they kept quiet?

ALSO BY Paul Thomas Anderson on Stub Hubby:  There Will Be Blood and Punch-Drunk Love.
By Phillip Seymour Hoffman: Moneyball, The Invention of Lying, Capote, Cold Mountain, Almost Famous, The Talented Mister Ripley, Twister, and Nobody's Fool.
By Amy Adams: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Catch Me If You Can.
By Joaquin Phoenix: Walk The Line, The Village, Signs, Gladiator, and To Die For. (I saw Parenthood [1989] in the theater when I was 17, but I don't have a post for it)

Here's one more image of the
five perf 65mm film I found on Tumblr