The Master

The Master ★★★★½

The Master. 2012. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.

Paul Thomas Anderson likes to explore logical/surrogate family situations and The Master (2012) is a fine example such situations. Joachim Phoenix (Freddie Quell) a true alcoholic finds himself taken in by Philip Seymour Hoffman (Lancaster Dodd/Master) [who is writing his initial books on Scientology and developing The Church of Scientology]. Lancaster Dodd is enamored by Freddie because he can mix random chemical that create different states of intoxication. As a result, Freddie is accepted into the cult lifestyle. However, Dodd uses Freddie as a guinea pig for his demonstrations of hypnotherapy and past life regression. Another component of The Master that is worth mentioning is Lancaster Dodd slowly over time as the run time diminishes starts to make small mistakes that lead to larger mistakes. In turn, his followers begin to question his authority as a leader. 

Anderson’s command over his script about the origins of Scientology is brilliant, full of details, comedy, and serious moments. Mihai Malaimare Jr. is the DP with great framing, zoomed shots, and tracking shots. Johnny Greenwood adds a brightness to the story that is infectious and makes one feel at home in the cult environment. PTA has so many masterpieces and the relationship between Dodd and Quell has so much tension and love that I cannot help being enchanted by The Master and their relationship. History repeats itself over and over as cults are born and die (eg Jim Jones, Sex Cults, etc.). Anderson’s careful fictionalization of the sensitive material resulted in a masterclass film. In addition, he chose the perfect cast of A-list actors.


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