Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Master

The theme of The Master is the whole human project, that is the endeavor of reforming human character--as represented successively in Rousseau, in Marx and Freud. The director Paul Thomas Anderson is a retrograde form of original. There Will Be Blood, his previous film was jagged edged, a larger than life East of Eden with Lawrentian overtones. Here too the palette is rich and full of leitmotifs. The director loves the sea and the gnarled morphology of imperfect bodies. There’s a wonderful scene of fulsome nudes that could easily have been drawn from Poussin. You are confounded by hosts of associations. Is Anderson presenting man in nature or man in some self-created hell? Is there an Adamic or for that matter Rouseauesque form of innocence to return to? To discountenance The Master’s debt L. Ron Hubbard, is to hijack the ambition of the movie, which deals with a science fi writer who invents a form of therapy called “processing” (Scientology’s Dianetics) which deals with both past traumas and past lives. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the Master, Lancaster Dodd. His disciple is Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), who bears no small resemblance to the savage Alex of A Clockwork Orange. He is the litmus test, the petrie dish in which Dodd’s theories will be tested. If The Master is filled with cultish perversity, Quell is one of Freud’s case studies, The Rat Man for example, viewed in a fun house mirror. But the brilliance of the film lies in a disquisition which defeats causality. Scenes occur with no warning and no build up. The chaotic Freddie drunkenly stumbles onto a yacht where a wedding is about to take place and enters history. We go back into his past as he is treated with harrowing “applications.” Then his own psycho-history takes on a life of its own, in which he is eventually released from the jaws of memory into something worse, the despair of his own life. Abandoned by his Pygmalion, Freddie returns to one of the earlier set pieces of the movie, as a helpless creature curled up against the haunting figure of a woman carved in sand.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.