Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Done In 60 Seconds Competition 2015
Guide To Marvel's Infinity War
The Making Of The West Wing
Get 12 Issues For Only £25 Today
The perfect gift this Christmas
London Film Festival 2014
Our round-up of the galas, films and interviews
Empire Blogs
Under The Radar

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Venice 2012: The Master

Posted on Saturday September 1, 2012, 12:02 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
Venice 2012: The Master

The Master is one of those films that takes on a life before anyone has seen it, fuelled by rumour and information of the dis- and mis- kind. Before going any further, I feel duty-bound to say that this film is not in any way “about” Scientology or a takedown of L Ron Hubbard and his pseudo-scientific “religion”. If anything, it is a very old-fashioned love story, forged in the style of Nicholas Ray or, at a push, Douglas Sirk, and should perhaps be regarded as a man's picture of the kind lately being made by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Biutiful) or Jacques Audiard (Rust And Bone).

Where to start? After There Will Be Blood, this is another outstanding technical achievement from Paul Thomas Anderson, and, visually, the film is near faultless. Some felt it a little long, and it does wobble slightly in the second half, but this felt more controlled than its predecessor, at least to me. If TWBB was about the founding of contemporary America in a crucible of greed and violence, The Master is about the healing America needed after its rebound from the Second World War, and the film's special relevance to today involves central character Freddie Quinn (Joaquin Phoenix), a former Marine who is dumped back into society with an insufferable personality disorder and a drink problem fed by a talent for making potent moonshine. After falling about as far as a man can fall, Freddie ends up on a boat belonging (or maybe not) to Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a self-help guru who sees this broken man as the perfect test case for his developing cult.

Dodd does not like the word cult, however, and bats it away; he calls his cause The Cause and he sees himself as a liberator, on a quest to return mankind to its “perfect” default status. The similarities to Scientology founder Hubbard are distinct in this regard; Dodd uses emotive questioning (“processing”) to gain access to his subject's most private thoughts and fears, insists that past-life regression holds the key to the future, and is a very, very, very bad writer. But this isn't about a charlatan, even though this master is seen through at myriad points in the story. Dodd is never fully defrocked or exposed; the only enigma in this movie is why Dodd is doing what he does, and Hoffman portrays him with wit and humour. The socialites who fund him are easy meat, so Dodd, clearly a smart man and a brilliant extemporaneous thinker, perhaps gets a kick out of trying to get through to Freddie, this most base of men, obsessed with sex and quick to violence.

The emotional core of the film, however, is about what Freddie wants, and the crucial line of the movie comes near the beginning, when Freddie is questioned before discharge about a crying fit he was seen to suffer. Freddie claims it was down to nostalgia, a letter from an old friend's kid sister. “I saw a letter, I read it,” he reasons. Freddie's pent-up passion is the motor for the movie, a requisition of an old Hollywood theme used in much the same way as Gus Van Sant used it in Good Will Hunting – likewise The Master is not a film about Scientology, it is a film about a girl, a love Freddie cannot face or deal with and a secret to be prodded and investigated by the curious Dodd.

Aside from Mihai Malaimare Jr's astonishing cinematography and Jonny Greenwood's brilliant score, it falls to Hoffman and Phoenix to sell this story. Both are phenomenal; Phoenix a bent, twisted, unpredictable letch whose naivety betrays him at every turn. Hoffman, meanwhile, is a sweet and avuncular showman whose methods, though unorthodox, do sometimes seem to get results. The ending is a strange one, a far cry from the crescendo of There Will Be Blood, but there's a wordless poetry here that will continue to beguile for quite some time. The Master will not be to all tastes, and there is a lot left out to make space what sometimes feels shouldn't be in, notably a long demonstration of techniques by Dodd in the second half. But this is a film that aspires to brilliance and beauty from a most exceptionally talented director, a sometimes breathtaking work of true modern cinema that explores a very peculiar time and place with wit, humour and emotion.

Login or register to comment.

Comments

1 danielcharlwood
Posted on Tuesday September 4, 2012, 07:14
Finally a real film about real people from a real film maker. Something to wash over you rather than wash off you.

2 UTB
Posted on Tuesday September 4, 2012, 08:32
You wouldn't put it on the cover though, would you? ;)

Log in below, or register to post comments
Username:
Password:
Remember Me:

CATEGORIES

Empire States (440)

Under The Radar (329)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (35)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


RECENT POSTS

Lego The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game Preview
By Ali Plumb

The Return Of Max Payne
By Ali Plumb

Empire's Modern Warfare 3 Multiplayer Survival Guide
By Ali Plumb

In Search Of The Ultimate Xbox Controller
By James Dyer

Hands on with El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
By Ali Plumb

Japanese gaming hero Suda 51 on his latest, Shadows Of The Damned
By Ali Plumb

Hands On: Razer Onza
By James Dyer

Empire Sits Down With The Portal 2 Writers, Gets Worryingly Excited
By Ali Plumb

Movie Karaoke, Anyone? Yoostar 2 Can Turn You Into Arnold Schwarzenegger... Kind Of
By Ali Plumb

Have You Seen The Awe-Inspiring Dead Island Trailer Yet?
By Ali Plumb


RECENT COMMENTS

Would it Work: A Legend of Zelda Movie?
"It would be hard to make the movie to what fans, such as myself, would expect, which means expectati"  Alixis93
Read comment

E3 2013: David Cage On Beyond: Two Souls
"Very excited about this game. played their previous PS3 game "Heavy Rain" which was unique"  Okester
Read comment

E3 2013: Electronic Arts
""As the event began properly, a bombastic war-themed trailer proved to be a genius parody of th"  Film2012
Read comment

Lego The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game Preview
"I am ridiculously excited by the hope that I may have this game wrapped and with my name on it under"  MD3
Read comment

Would it Work: A Legend of Zelda Movie?
"hay look at this these guys are making a Legend of Zelda movie!!! https://www.fac"  link2point0
Read comment

Would it Work: A Legend of Zelda Movie?
"My god, I've been planning this of so long. YES it will work. And I plan to get my ideas where they "  Thinking_fanatic
Read comment

Would it Work: A Legend of Zelda Movie?
"im 50/50 on it because it has a good storyline but it depends on the game its going to copy or if th"  No_1ups
Read comment

The Return Of Max Payne
"I absolutely love the first two Max Payne games (and recently downloaded the first one - for free - "  Draven Cage
Read comment

Would it Work: A Legend of Zelda Movie?
"Maybe write a book first of a really good screen play and see how that goes."  welshcelt
Read comment

Would it Work: A Legend of Zelda Movie?
"...possibly. I think you would have to split one game up though in to 2 maybe 3 movies to get the fu"  welshcelt
Read comment


POPULAR POSTS

Have You Seen The Awe-Inspiring Dead Island Trailer Yet?
21 comments

The New Xbox: Slim, Sleek And Silent
7 comments

Red Dead Redemption Goes To The Movies
7 comments

Empire at E3: The Return of Goldeneye
3 comments

Empire at E3: The Nintendo Round-up
2 comments

Empire Sits Down With The Portal 2 Writers, Gets Worryingly Excited
2 comments

In Search Of The Ultimate Xbox Controller
1 comments

Empire's Modern Warfare 3 Multiplayer Survival Guide
1 comments

The Return Of Max Payne
1 comments

Lego The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game Preview
1 comments


BLOGGERS
Damon Wise (297)
Helen O'Hara (181)
James Dyer (86)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Owen Williams (21)
Phil de Semlyen (20)
Simon Braund (6)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
Ian Nathan (1)
David Parkinson (1)

SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS

SAVE UP TO 48% GET 12 ISSUES FOR ONLY £25
Get the best seat in the house by subscribing to the world's biggest movie magazine today. Save up to 69% and every month you'll get exclusive subscriber-only covers, access to the biggest stars and the best news, reviews and behind-the-scenes reports straight from the set. Click here to find the perfect offer for you


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
Josh Hutcherson On The Hunger Games Phenomenon
'I've done my fair share of young adult material now'

What Is A Squidward? A Beginner's Guide To SpongeBob SquarePants
If you aren’t already a massive fan, prepare to become one

Classic Feature: Gods Among Us - Robert De Niro
The heavyweight champion of character immersion, explosive rage and jawdropping subtleties

Empire Meets Thelma Schoonmaker
On editing Scorsese, GoodFellas and a life in film

5 Possible Captain America: Civil War Roles For Daniel Brühl
Failing a Red Skull return, here are some Marvel villains the actor could play...

Kit Harington On How To Train Your Dragon 2
As the sequel hits home entertainment, we talk to the Game Of Thrones star

Who's Who In Duncan Jones' Warcraft
The characters, the conflict and (possibly) the whole damned plot

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)