Oct 19, 2012

The trees are better than the forest.

There is a lot to like about The Master.  Like Amy Adams' performance, for instance; the skeptic scene; the breathtaking sixty-five millimeter cinematography -- a real poke in the eye to the Hollywood auteurs who have switched to digital; the first two sequences of the film, one of which reminds me of Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (the rumor is that PT Anderson's next project is an adaptation of Pynchon's latest novel, Inherent Vice), and the other an absolute marvel of production design, performances, palette, photography, and story, that one becomes disheartened with the next two hours of the film -- and is left wondering what is on the cutting room floor.

You have a great chance this time, but you should have won for Junebug (a much better film than The Master.)

Did someone lose their nerve?

Expectations are nearly always a problem for the critic. They are impossible to subdue completely, and I should give you a short back history re my relationship with PT Anderson.  I like Boogie Nights.  The convenience store scene is one of the finest things I have ever seen in the cinema.  It, somehow, completely breaks down the barrier between the audience and the images on film.  Every time I see it, I always feel like a witness in that Hollywood "buy it and go fuck yourself" shop.  I am in the movie.

Magnolia, on the other hand, is an absolute disaster.  One of the most pretentious and derivative one hundred and fifty minutes of any one's life, as far as I am concerned.  The performances are awful.  The stories are ludicrous, yet predictable.  The resolutions to each story are delivered in the most ham-handed, melodramatic way; and the frogs, and Supertramp, and Aimee Mann, etc, ...

That is when I swore off PT Anderson.  I skipped Punch Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood -- despite a dozen of my cinema buddies swearing I should see it.  But, when I heard that PT Anderson was going to do a film about Scientology; perhaps a film that would satirize, or skewer Tom Cruise's beloved cult, then I became a bit more willing to forget and forgive.

Of course, well before the time I put my fanny in the chair at the cinema, I knew that this was not going to be as I had hoped.  Anderson was not going to lower the boom on Scientology.  (Or, did he? Is there a five hour Director's Cut due for release in 2022? One can only hope, yes?) Even understanding that, I was willing to give Anderson another chance.  I asked Renee if she was interested in seeing The Master, and she gave me a flat, No.

Fair enough.  I am not gonna cry about that.  Then Renee had a sudden change of heart.  She did want to see The Master, and we saw it, and finished off our fabulous date with a meal at Va De Vi.

We talked about the film at great length, and we have one major disagreement.  She thinks Phillip Seymour Hoffman really cares about Joaquin Phoenix and wants to change him.  I, and a couple of my friends disagree, and think that Hoffman wants Phoenix around as a bully, and as a reminder to himself that he, Hoffman, is not an animal.

This is tough.  I do not want to spoil anything for any one who has not seen the picture.  But, it appears to me that the driving force behind Hoffman's cult is Amy Adams.  Yet, we barely see her, at all.  It seems Anderson (to me, at least) goes to great pains to illustrate what a fraud Hoffman is, but, is reluctant to display Adams as the real master mind.  Why? What sort of sense of mystery are you trying to create here? And Adams delivers the finest performance in the film. How subtle are you trying to be?

The Master, honestly, begins to resemble The Magnificent Ambersons in the end, in the sense that you are shocked to discover that perhaps a half hour of the film has been lopped off between the desert motorcycle scene and Phoenix's cinema dream scene.

I am fine with that, actually.  I love Welles' studio-butchered Ambersons, despite wishing I could see the film as Welles' intended.  But, what I can not abide is what should be the most crucial scene in the film be such an absolute let down, when Phoenix finally goes back home.

The film picks up for one scene set in England, and then ends on a completely useless, predictable note.  (I am starting to suspect that Anderson has a real problem with resolution.)

Despite the sterling cinematography, and impeccable production design, and a couple of fine performances, Anderson has not made me like him more.  Or, made me more likely to sit through three hours of There Will Be Blood, than you v much!

Still, if Inherent Vice truly is his next project, as much as I love that novel, and Pynchon, I will most likely be putting my arse right back in to that cinema seat, with a big bag of popcorn and hody.

Ugh! Sometimes we never learn, yes?


In terms of the "horse race", I fully expect The Master to be nominated for Best Picture (along with the other Anderson's much more deserving, yet, no chance in hell of winning's, Moonrise Kingdom.)  Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman will all be nominated, as well.

The Master has a great shot at winning for cinematography, deservedly so.  Phoenix, at this point -- despite the fact that I thought his performance was markedly dripping of Method, screaming affectation, and, "Hey, look I am an actor, acting! How cool." -- is the clear leader for Best Actor next Spring.  Adams and Hoffman have an outside shot, too.  There is no way in hell that The Master wins Best Picture.

In my eyes, the only actor truly deserving of an Oscar from this motion picture is Amy Adams. (The bathroom mirror scene with Hoffman is one of the finest moments of the picture, and it is in spite of Hoffman.)  Hoffman was good, but not deserving of special accolade, for sure.

All my love,


No comments:

Post a Comment