3. "The Master"
Great movies are not always ingratiating ones. There are so many ways in
which "The Master," written and directed by Paul Thomas
Anderson and boasting virtuoso, uncompromised performances from a cast led by Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams,
is a beautiful cinematic object. Its cinematography, by Mihai Malaimare
Jr., in the large-frame 70 mm film format, is both sumptuous and unsparing in
its detail. The settings, from a Navy destroyer at the end of World War II to an
everything-up-to-date 1950s department store to the British church hall where
the film's charismatic cult leader sets up shop, are meticulously realized.
There's more of course. And yet this is a "difficult" film, because it's about
difficult people. At heart, it's about the uneasy truth that all people are
difficult, that rage is an all-too-human trait, and that the things we do to
deal with that rage, from drinking ourselves insensate to creating a belief
system that says all our traumas are rooted in past lives, can maybe scratch an
itch a bit but can never really get to the bottom of the unnamable thing that's
really eating at us. And that's pretty heavy ... and not ingratiating. Which
isn't to say that this masterpiece is without pleasure or humor. It's got plenty
of both. But its ultimate, scary power comes from the way it tries to look
squarely into the eye of the thing that will not let us be. -- Glenn
Bing: More about 'The Master' | More on Joaquin Phoenix
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(The Weinstein Company)