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Friday, September 21, 2012

The Master

That something unspoken connects the two men (Joaquin Phoenix's Freddie Quell and Philip Seymour Hoffman's Lancaster Dodd) is undeniable. Exactly what this relationship is, however, remains open to interpretation. It could be a homoerotic current running between them, or a father-son bond of love and hate, or a codependence between the savior and the saved. Are these bonds all the same thing? Especially between men? Don't know. My vote is to the father-son relationship, only because I interpret PT Anderson's previous movies as driven by troubled and contradictory father-son relationships as well. Something between Freddie and the Master reminds me of the clash between Daniel Day Lewis and Paul Dano in "There Will Be Blood."

There are times during the movie when I wanted to nap or check my blackberry, I must admit. Yet there are also scenes that completely captivate me, like the "processing" Dodd did with Quell. So intense I could hardly blink myself.

Joaqin Phoenix irritated me very badly in this movie. First, I couldn't shake the feeling that this character should have been much younger. Much, much younger. 20 to 22. Phoenix is too old, and looks even older. Second, the Marlon Brando-James Dean-homage-ish grimace is excessive, akin to screaming at the top of his lungs for 130 minutes, "Look! Acting!" I much prefer Hoffman's reserved approach. I know they are supposed to contrast with each other, but Phoenix just annoyed me too much.

Phoenix's posture throughout the movie suggests that Freddie is an ape. We the audience is even told directly that he is "an animal." Dodd wants to tame him, that is also clear. Freddie's posture becomes straighter and more like a man. Yet it is hard to tell whether the glint in Dodd's eye is satisfaction at his creation or disappointment of losing a vehicle to project his own repressed animalistic urges.

The soundtrack is very interesting. It does not always "enhance" or "cooperate" with the scenes. Sometimes it almost conflicts with the scenes. Other times it serves to smooth out visually abrupt transitions. The mix of dissonant modern tunes and 1950s jazzy style is most intriguing. 

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