While initially tempted to write an extremely long rant about the senility of Bret Easton Ellis as related to the fundamental merits of The Master I abstained realizing that it was perhaps more important to take its effect in as a piece of personal enrichment as opposed to some platform on which to argue with a largely aged author. Joaquin Phoenix, in my humble (HUMBLE) opinion, outdid Heath Ledger’s Joker by about 40,000% and if there’s nothing else worth focusing on in this movie, that’s it: the showcasing of an American acting talent that surpasses anyone I can currently think of. This is not talking nearby The Master, I guess, maybe I’m being a turd, but I just saw the film last night (I live in Nowhere, Wisconsin) and upon leaving I couldn’t stop formulating critical analyses of what I’d just seen and though I tried (REALLY FUCKING TRIED) to keep it all to myself, perhaps sharing just a bit with someone very close to me; seeing this in the morning I couldn’t help myself. Oddly enough, the easiest comparison of the story told seemed to be a debauched Great Gatsby, with the use of recording devices and strange shifts in dialogue reaching to Beckett, and the long motorcycle rides through the desert (I daresay) hearkening to Gallo’s Brown Bunny–I only say this because the nod to Buffalo ’66 in Boogie Nights with Don Cheadle in the diner getting psyched over the homemade cookies is undeniable–and the nudity a la Kubrick or Caligula (and hence, Gore Vidal) and so many other things happening to make this film a visionary slant on the old magic of cinema while being completely new and compelling that even though I’d like to keep my stupid mouth shut and watch another episode of Frasier, I had to say this real quick.
i see a lot of literature in the film. i feel sure pta thinks of film as an extension of literature. i thought especially on of mice and men, as the old man dies in salinas, and that book ends and begins with a beautiful description of the salinas river. freddie must have boarded the ship on that river, which dumps into the pacific near san francisco.
i see your point but disagree that phoenix’s acting is irrelevant, i see it as a tasty pair of shoes that pull an ensemble together.
the ocean, however, seems to be the real star of the film — an unknowable expanse upon which the craft rides. i think this metaphor works both for the film itself, as vehicle, as well as the general impulse to guide people to a ‘correct’ mode of thinking (the impetus and subtext, i fell, of all writing or at least all prose), and speaks to the fact that our crafts do not belong to us. when we first meet the master he is in this incredibly postured version of ‘the thinker’ were he privileged and twisted, and when he is asked if this is his ship he says, ‘i am its master.’ the reoccurring sea shot continually asks, ‘is this the swell of the ocean or propeller wash? are we on the ship with lancaster dodd or the navy? are we in control of our bodies or are we driven by the same force that guides the ocean? are we, at the end of the day, more or less than water’
anyway, what do you think of this: i’ve been trying to figure out what pta means to say by the hip-cock-hands-back-elbows-out pose one sees in both freddie quell and daniel plainview. it seems to be some comment on the nature of modern man as he looks at his creation but i don’t know what.
This is solid, and I agree completely re Phoenix’s acting, pretty much from the start PTA’s been an actor’s director pushed to the extreme; and American cinema in particular has always required just as much of its actors as it has writer/directors, with hardly an exception along the way. As far as the pose, there were many similarities I noticed in the film to There Will Be Blood and I sort of just inhaled each as some comment on man’s relationship to nature and his desperate ploy to conquer it; that sort of thing. I found it interesting that both feature the massive room, massive man at massive desk followed by some very primitive act (with There Will Be Blood: Murder, with The Master: Fucking).
“PTA . . . an actor’s director pushed to the extreme” – absolutely
Tom Cruise in Magnolia, Julianne Moore in Magnolia, Wm. Macy in Magnolia, John C. Reilly in Magnolia, etc etc etc in Magnolia; Mark Wahlberger in Boogie Nights; Daniel Day Lewis & Paul Dano in TWBB; etc etc
“each as some comment on man’s relationship to nature and his desperate ploy to conquer it” – – – – – hrmm, i see them more as man’s relationship to man and [some men’s] desperate need to control through manipulation . . . etc etc etc
Agreed, I suppose I felt it was all rooted a bit in a control of nature, however, simply because the control of man must extend from a desire to control one’s environment and what’s more uncontrollable than nature? But then a more pertinent question might be man’s fear of death and desperate ploys by Dodd to evade mortality; however with the imagery starting the film of the wrestling navymen and the constant dog-and-master back and forth between Phoenix and Hoffman I’d say that first and foremost this is correct. An extension even further I guess is that of the cult and the cult leader and the fundamental desperation behind that (man needing to go from writing science fiction to starting his own religion founded in essential lunacy, for instance) but perhaps Reynard was quite right from the beginning: The Master is hard to talk about; well-done art almost should be.
Or, we can think of the amalgam of Man’s struggles – inner conflicts (sadness, alienation, anger, fear, awareness of mortality ) and outer (against ‘nature’, for survival, between and amongst one another) – all of it as simply a part of Nature