The Mas­ter (2012)

RTÉ Guide - - Film Planner -

12.45am, Satur­day, Chan­nel 4

“You’ve wan­dered from the proper path, haven’t you?”

Five years af­ter There Will Be Blood,

Paul Thomas An­der­son de­liv­ered an­other epic Amer­i­can tale fea­tur­ing a sur­ro­gate fa­ther-son re­la­tion­ship at its heart. The Mas­ter is a sweep­ing, com­pelling and puz­zling yarn that de­lights and in­fu­ri­ates in equal mea­sure. Shot en­tirely on 65mm, the movie fol­lows the for­tunes of US navy vet­eran Fred­die Quell (Joaquin Phoenix). Clearly su er­ing some sort of post-trau­matic stress fol­low­ing his WWII ex­pe­ri­ences, Quell drifts aim­lessly from one dead-end job to an­other in a haze of al­co­hol and barely sup­pressed rage. When he stows away on a yacht con­trolled by Philip Sey­mour Ho man’s charis­matic Lan­caster Dodd, the lat­ter be­lieves he has found a suit­able can­di­date for his cult. “You will be my guinea pig and pro­tégé,’’ Dodd pro­claims, and Quell is only too happy to throw in his lot with a char­ac­ter who de­scribes him­self, with no lit­tle pom­pos­ity, as ‘a writer, a doc­tor, a nu­clear physi­cist and a philoso­pher.’

Though clearly mod­elled in some part on L Ron Hub­bard, the founder of Scien­tol­ogy, Ho man’s por­trayal, par­tic­u­larly when he ran­domly bursts into song, seems to be equally in­formed by Charles Fos­ter Kane.

For his part, Phoenix was guided in his per­for­mance by the Bow­ery drunks of the pe­riod, but with his high-waisted pants and man­nered delivery, he also has a look of 1950s-era Fred­eric March about him. And if Ho man is Kane, Phoenix is the one with the Rose­bud; as the mem­ory of his pre-war gal in­forms his ev­ery move. We ex­pect this sort of qual­ity from Ho man, but it was good to see Phoenix back in the zone af­ter some re­cent de­tours. A word, too, for Amy Adams, mak­ing the most of her role as Dodds’ wife; a lit­tle lady who quickly turns into Lady Mac­beth.

The Mas­ter is a lm that’s eas­ier to ad­mire than to like, and it’s not with­out aws (es­pe­cially in the sec­ond act), but it con rms Paul Thomas An­der­son’s stand­ing as a true au­teur: a mas­ter, in fact.

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