The Master

The Master ★★★★★

Revisited in memory of Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

This film is not even two years old, and already it has been etched in my mind as one of cinema's great achievements. A classic in the truest sense.

Paul Thomas Anderson naturally gets the credit he deserves, but I don't think it can be overstated just how phenomenal the performances here really are. Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams breath life and ownership into their roles, and among the many other characters that populate the film there is not a weak link. You truly believe it is the 1950's, that Freddie is severely damaged from World War II and that Lancaster Dodd is persuasively and charismatically leading his followers into a new belief system.

What has always been fascinating to me is the way in which we see the film through the eyes of both Freddie and Dodd. Like Freddie, the narrative structure appears imbalanced and off-putting. Like Lancaster Dodd, moments of the film take themselves very seriously while other moments are unpredictable and explosive. This is, firstly, a character study, and I can only admire the moments when PTA backs away from the camera and lets his actors carry the film. It is what gives the characters so much life.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a cherished friend of Paul's and it pains me to realize that this was to be their last collaborative effort. Together with Paul, Phillip was able to prove to us just how versatile he was as an actor, convincingly playing everything from an insecure man child in Boogie Nights and an empathetic nurse in Magnolia to an angry mattress store manager in Punch Drunk Love and a charismatic religious leader in The Master.

Paul said in an interview, "Well I'm not just saying this because he's my really good friend, which he is, but the man truly can do it all."

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