September 6, 2016
The Master is considered by many the Paul Thomas Anderson masterpiece. It is also hated amongst movie viewers and catalogued as that boring personal movie a great director made with famous actors in which nothing happens. They call it overrated and overhyped. I consider every PTA work an original film. They all have similarities and at the same time are all unique in their own way. But you’ve heard that more than once, right? The great thing about Paul Thomas Anderson films is that they are all about people. That sounds like just every movie ever made but PTA films are especially about people. I was discussing his films with a friend and I came up with the idea that it is hard to categorize his films besides being about people. There isn’t much to explain other than that. Consider There Will Be Blood. That’s a movie about petroleum and an ambitious guy who wanted to make it big in the business. You could ask somebody: What would There Will Be Blood be about if it was made by another director? If it was made by the Coen brothers it would’ve been a comedy with cartoonish characters, heavy witty dialogue from that era and maybe a strange resolution. What if it would’ve been directed by Woody Allen? It would’ve been about the heirs of that fortune talking about books and politics on the best area of the country. What about Tarantino? It would’ve been a western with characters betraying each other stealing gold and goods from these rich people and Daniel Plainview would’ve been a corrupted villain. You wanna go harder? What if it would’ve been directed by Billy Wilder: It would’ve been a tale about a greedy character who wanted to take it all for himself and couldn’t survive with all of it. Even harder: If it was directed by Ingmar Bergman it would’ve been about characters suffering in their rooms because they can’t achieve happiness around this country and the priest would’ve lacked faith and made a big personal suffering show about it. They all actually sound like great movies. But what if the movie was made by any of these directors and you’d ask: What if Paul Thomas Anderson had directed it? It would’ve been hard to describe. The fact is that he made There Will Be Blood in his own way and that is the only thing that can be said about it. It would’ve been hard to guess what kind of product he’d deliver if it didn’t exist in the first place. His movies are made just his way. There’s no explanation, just weird music, combined with certain groups of people that struggle throughout 2-3 hours of drama and that is that. Some might like it. Some might hate it. Some might think the movies are boring and didn’t convey an exact message. They don’t need to.
The good thing I can say in defense of The Master is how such a simple story can be made into an impressive event. Everything about this movie is respectable. The acting should be the first thing aspiring drama actors should watch, from the main characters to the expressions of performers who appear only in the background or for a couple seconds. The story flows in sometimes a weird way that keeps the viewer wondering what’s next at the same time making him/her enjoy every single moment. The way the music is provided in certain scenes works perfectly with the mood of the characters. The cinematography and all the colors in the movie are impressive. And the motifs of the characters are powerful as hell, come on. Joaquin Phoenix is a guy who lost it all or probably never had anything. He came back from war and couldn’t find a place to settle. He fails in all his jobs, he is a hard drinker, he doesn’t know what he wants, he’s angry and still he sometimes has a good time. Philip Seymour Hoffman is just a man who is trying to give his points of views of life in strange ways. That dragon speech is something else. Every conversation in the movie tells us something humanly interesting about these people and at the end we basically know their personalities. You just need to observe them closely and see how a director can create such authentic characters and that’s what you learn from this movie. The only thing this movie intends is its story, characters and development to be enjoyed and that doesn’t mean everyone should like it. PTA doesn’t make his films in order to show what a smart guy he is. He just tells stories in his own way hoping some people will enjoy his style of filmmaking.
Moreover, the other characters in the film are just struggling to live because they really believe ‘The Cause’ is something true in a wrecked world. Yeah, maybe the cause is full of crap or nonsense but another great aspect about the movie is that it doesn’t take sides. This is not a movie about scientology. It’s just a portrayal of individuals who think something they are inclined to feels real. And they suffer throughout the whole film trying to support it. Some of them are confused, others diligent, and others just going with the flow trying to figure something out of their lives. And the element of surprise is astounding. How Joaquin Phoenix ends up with this people and the viewer slowly discovers what he’s just gotten into is beautiful if one keeps the eye close to the screen. Like I said before, a good thing about this movie is how a simple little story can be turned into such high-quality filmmaking. If you don’t like it it’s ok. Maybe it didn’t work for you. But don’t be unfair, don’t tell people they are pretentious just because you did not enjoy a movie. It’s just a matter of preference. I am sure people hate it and it’s fine, that’s their taste and there’s nothing wrong with it. People categorize several movies that they have a hard time understanding. Or they think nothing happens. It’s not that. Maybe they should start thinking about their own views. Maybe they are not that interested in people besides themselves. Maybe you are trying to be entertained without trying to understand someone else? In order to like these kinds of movies people need to care about people. It’s easily noticeable the love Paul Thomas Anderson has for people and movies in general (he wouldn’t have shot it in 70mm if he didn’t). That’s his main success. We just have to hope he will still be making movies as good as he has done. By the way, for his next film he is teaming up again with Daniel Day Lewis. So there you go. It could bomb, but that has not happened in more than 20 years and I don’t see why he should start sucking all of a sudden. Cheers!