The Master

The Master ★★★★½

Shit, I forgot what a great actor Joaquin Phoenix is. Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the most cinematic directors working today; every one of his movies looks big, uses the language of cinema to great extent, has characters that are fleshed out, and feel real, and manage to work on both visceral and intellectual levels.

It's noteworthy that this is PTA's first movie shot in the 16:9 aspect ratio, and his transition from 2.35:1 to this is seamless: the shot composition is impeccable, and even though this picture format is more associated with television and movies that look pretty small and shallow, The Master looks massive. His choice of lenses is also really interesting: a lot of the shot feature only the faces of the characters, and in almost all of those, the backgrounds are blurred and two-dimensional, making the audience focus on the brilliant performances by the cast. Then again, he opens up the locations and shows landscapes with extensive depth of field. Also quite a few of the shots that feature Phoenix and Hoffman have something right in the middle, that splits the shot in two halves, visually augment the differences and the conflict between the characters. Film is a medium that merges sounds and visuals to tell a story in a more interesting and meaningful way, and PTA knows that. The score by Johnny Greenwood creates an offbeat atmosphere that helps us understand the mental and emotional state of Freddie Quell.

After watching this I have, for the first time since his passing, felt sadness because we'll wont get no more PTA and Philip Seymour Hoffman collaborations. He was one of the great actors.

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