Friday, October 5, 2012

Movies: The Master

It`s fall again, time for Hollywood to send the prospective Oscar contenders onto the screens. One of them is "The Master", directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, an icon of independent cinema ( The movie tells the story of a disturbed American World War II returnee who gets involved with a charismatic cult leader. Watching this highly ambitious opus caused mixed impressions for me. I got two wow-effects and one so-so impression.

The strongest wow effect came from the gorgeous cinematography which should at least earn an Oscar nomination. I was enchanted by the visual magic of  Anderson and his cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr.. Both - and the digital post production - created pictures to dream of. I had the luck to see one of the rare the 65mm versions which were projected in 70mm onto some selected screens  (here is a list I have never seen the sea so beautiful and so blue as on this screen - just one of a lot of fascinating pictures. The whole movie was a feast for the eyes.

I got the second wow effect from the superb acting. 2 members of the fine cast could be Oscar contenders too: Philip Seymour Hoffman & Joaquin Phoenix. It was a grace to watch Hoffman as a charismatic cult leader. He showed the eloquence, brilliance and charm of this enigmatic figure but also his stubbornness and anger, when he was questioned or doubted.

Phoenix, on whom the film focused, impressed as a traumatized young man trying to adapt to an unfamiliar world. You could read in his face how he fought with himself and his environment.  But sometimes it was stressful to watch the furor and irrationality of this character. The rest of the cast, especially Amy Adams as the cult leaders wife, who displayed total trust in her husband´s exotic theories, enhanced the joy of the movie.

But the plot left a so-so impression. Before the film reached the cinema theaters there was a lot of ado about an alleged connection with L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. But Anderson didn`t show much interest into the beliefs and claims of this cult/church. Instead his script focused on the relationship between the cult leader and the disturbed ex-soldier. It wasn´t really clear to me what caused the strong tie between these so different personalities.

Maybe the master saw him as a pet, in one scene he called him "a wild animal". Maybe he used him as a guinea pig for his theories, maybe he just enjoyed the power he had on this feral young men, at least temporary. This incertitude limited the joy watching "The Master". But considering the masterful cinematography & acting the film wasn`t so bad.

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