Thursday 29 November 2012


Better say at the start that this film does NOT have anything at all to do with the founder of Scientology, one L. Ron Hubbard. No Sir-ee!!! Nichts, nada, rien! Right, having now got that out of the way......

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays an L. Ron Hubbard-type character, charismatic leader of a cult which believes in multiple past lives (over trillions of years!) and emotional cleansing and spiritual advancement by regressing the individual to these previous incarnations.
He takes Joaquin Phoenix's character (an ex-naval officer with mixed-up life and a very short fuse) under his wing. There's a strange mutual attraction between them, though no indication of anything even slightly sexual. Both are menacingly overbearing in their different ways and, of course, sparks fly. It seems that 'The Master' is almost grooming his new pupil to be an acolyte of his, though it doesn't actually develop this far.

It's an odd film, alternately fascinating, puzzling and frustrating - but certainly never dull.
Both the lead actors produce tour-de-force performances (with an Oscar tag?), each larger than life but still on the safe side of believable. I think Hoffman nails his character the more successfully, though they are both very good indeed (When has P.S. Hoffman ever been less than very good?).
One complaint which I do have is that the Phoenix role is played with a slight facial deformity which makes him slur words out through the side of his mouth. There were times when I just couldn't decipher what he was saying while being able to follow the person he was conversing with.
Also, I was confused by the opening scenes where there isn't a linear progression from one scene to the next, leaving me feeling like it was a jigsaw one was supposed to arrange oneself, though I found that more confusing than interesting. However, as the film goes on it becomes less of a problem.
Further still, a number of scenes have tension worked up or a conflict begun only to have that scene suddenly stop, leaving me wondering about any resolution, if there was one.
On the plus side I ought to say that in my opinion the background score of original music was of unusually high quality. 

On the whole, it's an intriguing film concerning an unusual subject. Bearing in mind that it's well over 2 hours long and I'd gone to it having suffered minimal sleep last night (pussy-care problems) it did hold my attention throughout.
So just on that factor alone, I think a fair score for 'The Master' would be........6.5/10


  1. It seems that we saw the same movie today. Anderson's film had some greatness about it - two extraordinary performances and revealing photography. But he dropped the ball with a narrative that goes dead for the last hour.

    Pussy-care problems? WE need and update as yours have been absent from here for quite a while.

  2. Paul, Anderson does seem to have a knack of delivering films from left-field. He's certainly never predictable and rarely boring.
    I suppose you felt the film's pace changed from the move to London, or maybe before. Perhaps. It surprised me that it ended where it did.

    Maybe I shouldn't have used the word 'problems' with the pussies - though there is a problem about my increasing brood.
    We've started getting the first frosts of the Winter and I've been keeping all the windows closed at night and leaving the heating on low. I've now got not only my own two, Blackso and Noodles, but it looks like Ginger has taken it on himself to move in as well - and not only that, but Patchy, the local 'community cat' has started sleeping here - letting the others know that he's the boss. The other three are all wary of him as he lashes out at any of them who comes too close. (He gets up on his hind legs and boxes like a kangaroo!)
    Anyway, while I've got all four of them locked in I purposely wake up several times during the night to open the window to see if they want to go out. And if they do I then have to wait for them to return as I can't get back to sleep with the thought that they are sitting out there on the window sill in the freezing night. If only they knew the hold they have over me!

  3. I am waiting for you to review a movie I actually know or see - alas, I am not one to go to cinema, so that's a rare event! Nevertheless I enjoy yuor reviews.

    1. Very chuffed at your final sentence, Dr Spo, for which I thank you - but when you say that you don't 'know' the films which I see you must surely have at least read about them, as a lot of them are widely released both here and worldwide, some being so-called blockbusters. And all the others are art-house releases which I would have thought that someone with your own refined tastes would have gone to see, but it's clearly not your pre-eminent means of entertainment. Still, I'm happy as long as I can continue to give you some modest reading pleasures - though at my age I'm not sure how much longer I'll be keeping it up.

    2. I do not know the word 'chuff' so I looked it up....
      I do hope it means more than what I just discovered??

    3. Well, that just goes to show! Until I referred to my own dictionary just now I never knew that the same word had two distinct opposite meanings. I was using it in the sense of being exultant (which I see is a dialectic use) rather than the straight-forward 'disgruntled' meaning which I'd never known before and which you presumably allude to here. This illustrates perfectly how careful one must be. Now that all is clear (I hope), I trust that you take no offence, where none was intended.

  4. a good review as always
    I would love you to review THE WALKING DEAD
    I would be interested in your views

    1. Muchas gracias, J.G. Your opinion (with one or two others) gives me the much needed confirmation that what I write makes for worthwhile reading - at least some of the time.

      I'm not quite sure which film you mean by 'The Walking Dead'. I see from IMDb site that there was a 1975 one with that title set during the VietNam war, and a 1936 Boris Karloff horror film. I haven't seen either of these.
      Also there have been some TV series so entitled which, again, I've never seen. Have you got the title right? Perhaps there's a new one in production?

      I only very rarely watch films on TV, never staying up beyond 9.30 p.m. (except for the annual Eurovision Song Contest!) and I don't have a DVD player.
      So if they don't get seen at the cinema it's unlikely I'll ever see them.
      Do let me know if you can pinpoint it further for me.

      (You didn't mean 'Dead Man Walking' - the Susan Sarandon/Sean Penn film of a few years ago, did you? I did find that a shatteringly moving film. It really did get to me.)

  5. I am looking forward to this though it may have to wait for DVD or "On Demand" I think it has come and gone already from the Valley of the Sun.

    Unrelated, I re-read your review of Skyfall which I saw this afternoon. I had not seen a Bond film in a theater is years (decades?) but went to this one because of reviews like yours. I am glad I did. His final scene in the chapel didn't work for me. It was well acted but seemed false. But on the whole I liked it very much.

    1. I don't think you'll find 'The Master' a waste of time, H.K. It's quite a deep film, very much for aficianados of the genre rather than those who want a thrill to last no longer than their popcorn-munching.

      Glad I was in some small way part of your reason you saw 'Skyfall'. I've yet to hear of anyone who thought it was disappointing.
      As the memory recedes it is true that the scene played out in the chapel didn't seem to belong with the rest of the film - largely because of the totally unexpected denouement brought about there. But all in all I think it's certainly one of the three or four best Bond films of the entire series - and with one of the very best villains of all.