the JO scene was my favourite.
i really loved this film. but i tend to gravitate towards non-linear storytelling and character development over plot lines, both in film and in books. it made me feel all sorts of feels, the visuals were stunning, the music was haunting, and phoenix and hoffman were fantastic. i don't know if i'd recommend the film to many people, but i was really moved by it
Anderson's movies are a strange thing for me. I don't really consider myself a fan of his work, but I see every movie when it comes out. There's no denying his talent as a visual filmmaker, but I think his real weakness is as a screenwriter, specifically his seeming inability to write satisfying third acts to his movies. It's enough of a problem that, in at least two of his movies (Boogie Nights and TWBB), I can literally pinpoint the moment when he loses his way and the whole thing falls apart storywise.
The Master sort of shuffles this weakness to the side by foregoing story almost entirely. Visually, The Master is stunning, and I wish I'd had the opportunity to see it in 70mm. At this point, about 24 hours after seeing it, I really have no idea what I watched. I was surrounded by theatergoers who unabashedly hated it, which could possibly be clouding my reaction ("There's two hours I'll never get back" was the first thing the guy next to me said as the credits rolled). I'm still thinking about it, trying to make sense of what seemingly made no sense, trying to find patterns in the seemingly random, but I'm not sure if I liked it or not.
Totally off-subject, but there were probably 30-50 people in the theater when I saw this and I was the youngest person there by at least two decades. Has anyone had a similar experience, or did I just happen to be in an auditorium full of elderly patrons? I found it very odd.
I haven't put this through any scientific scrutiny, but are all of PTA's movies cautionary tales about vanity? TWBB is about the loneliness caused by caring only about power (capitalist and religious), Boogie Nights about the misery of lust and fame, Magnolia about being the smartest guy in the room (the kid and WH Macy), Magnolia about dominating relationships (Tom Cruise), Punch Drunk Love about a vague sense of doing everything wrong.
And to all these characters PTA advises the same thing: relax, don't be afraid of failure, be honest about your problems, care about something besides yourself... Try to connect with people and you will feel much better. The hero in Magnolia is John C. Reilly when he admits to whats-her-name that he lost his gun, compared with Tom Cruise who stares at the interviewer for half an hour instead of answering a painful question about his mother. Barry Egan tells PSH at the end of PDL, "I have a love in my life, and that makes me stronger than anything you can imagine."
In The Master, Freddy's main problem is he has no idea how to connect with people. He plays with coconuts by himself and tries to fuck a sand mermaid. In the interviews with naval psychologists, he constantly lies and makes jokes because he doesn't want anyone to see his pain. The Cause, even though its all made up, forces Freddy to get real. When he's being processed, Dodd asks Freddy to say his name. The first time he says it he's just playing along, so he answers with detachment. By the fifth time he's dropped the bullshit; he's really wondering what's going on and he's starting to sincerely engage. Eventually he admits he fucked his aunt. At the end of the movie, he uses the same trick on a girl. As she repeats her name, Freddy jokes with her. He's no longer just looking for a fuck, he's learned how to connect with her.
Obviously there's a lot more. There's prob some stuff about individual freedom being selfish vs. having a master and serving something bigger than yourself. I'll have to see it again.
For the record, I'm one of those people who is more affected by PTA's work pre-TWBB, even though I liked TWBB and liked The Master. After The Master was over, I wasn't as gobsmacked as I was by Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love and Boogie Nights. Those movies always felt so operatic to me in their scope and depth of emotion.
But it's a funny thing. While The Master didn't hit me in that way, I find it lingering in my mind. What I think it is that, continuing a style that he started in TWBB, PTA has really created a world with The Master. I can't imagine living in Magnolia or Punch-Drunk Love or Boogie Nights, but I can imagine living in the world The Master. Maybe, in dropping the (admittedly thrilling) histrionics of his earlier films, he's now able to paint pictures that really feel real.
I didn't expect to feel this way after I left the film, but I think that I really do need to see it again--and want to see it again--just to crawl back inside those images.
I didn't think Freddy progressed at all as a human being. I thought the interaction with Dodd, and with the girl, at the end of the movie were meant to show that he didn't get anything out of processing at all. Him asking that girl her name over and over again was just a fun game to him. That was my reading of it. Art is weird, how can we feel two different things.
The bit at the end with the girl can be interpreted a couple ways, I think. While, at first, it did strike me as a genuinely sweet moment of interconnectedness from Freddie, upon reflection it also strikes me as one of the few moments in the movie where we get a sense of how savvy the man can be. "Hey, this is a pretty neat trick," Freddie probably thought to himself during processing, when Dodd thought he was just being so cool and manipulative.
There is rarely a moment in this movie when Dodd isn't so baldly faking like a big faking faker. From the moment he sees Freddie and waxes effusive about being super into his moonshine (like hell he likes that swill), to that drama queen poutiness in the jail cell (at first trying to talk Freddie into a different emotional level, then, failing that, trying to match Freddie's energy like a sociopath), Dodd is never the least bit real--with the possible exception of "pigfuck" and the J.O.*
*The popular morning zoo team.
I know what J.O. is referring to but what do the letters stand for? I thought it HJ? Or am I even wrong on what it's referencing?
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A few great scenes but not fulfilling as a movie/narrative to me.
Did anyone else find it oddly humorous? Might be my own experiences with charismatic leaders but I found PSH's character's falseness hilarious.
Joaquin Phoenix was amazing! Glad he's back into serious roles after that dumb "documentary" Two Lovers was an amazing movie with a similar character.