Michael Douglas and Matt Damon wow the Cannes film fest as Liberace and lover.
The Master review
Release date: 2 November 2012
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams
What's the story?
Shortly after World War II, a rootless ex-seaman (Phoenix) is welcomed into a quasi-religious sect by its charismatic leader Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman). His very presence, though, threatens to destroy it.
What did we think?
A work of beguiling, unsettling strangeness, Paul Thomas Anderson's latest feature is often as hard to comprehend as its title character's crackpot theories and his acolyte's moody mumbling. From a technical standpoint though it is a wonder to behold, as are Phoenix and Hoffman's wildly contrasting yet oddly complementary performances.
"I am a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist and a theoretical philosopher," states self-styled messiah Lancaster Dodd. "But above all, I am a man - a hopelessly inquisitive man." To this end he has created The Cause - a semi-scientific movement that claims to help its followers locate the source of their malaises in traumas locked in their past life or lives.
Clearly modelled on L Ron Hubbard, Lancaster is a charlatan who nonetheless exerts a powerful hold over his superstitious, needy disciples. One man, however, resists his influence - namely Freddie Quell, a disturbed veteran who's obsessed with sex, riven with rage and unable to function in affluent post-war America.
Scientologists have been understandably concerned over what could be read as a root-and-branch assault on their entire belief system. In common with Anderson's previous works, though, The Master is essentially a character study in which an impressionable youth comes into the orbit of a benign patriarch who appears to have all the answers.
Beautifully photographed, thrillingly acted and strikingly scored by Radiohead rocker Jonny Greenwood, The Master might lose its way as it enters its third hour. If you like cinema that challenges, questions and provokes, however, it's well nigh unmissable.
Verdict: A cult hit.
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