Well The Master is an amazing film but I can't say that it doesn't disappoint. It does. But I think it does so on purpose. You'll see...
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That's pretty much the plot of the movie. Freddie is basically an out of control maniac and Dodd is the ultimate manipulator. Watching the sparks fly in their scenes together is electrifying. What happens when the unstoppable force meets an immovable object? You get the jail cell scene. It's amazing to watch, especially on a giant screen. The Master was filmed in 70mm, the same as the old period epics from the 1960's, but instead of sweeping battle scenes and panoramic views, Anderson's film predominantly features people talking in rooms and intense closeups of it's actor's faces. This helps make the extremely powerful characters appear truly, larger than life.
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Then there's the music. Holy fuck Johnny Greenwood's score is amazing. The sounds (some might call it music) he created in There Will Be Blood were not only menacing and foreboding (like John Williams work on Jaws, intense), they were so overpowering at times his score felt like another character itself. Well his work here in The Master is equally pleasing. This time his score has the opposite effect. Instead of knocking down your door and shoving the horrors of the American frontier in your face, his subtle, dreamlike compositions in The Master creep into your psyche and place the viewer into a foggy haze, much like Freddie Quell's character. It's amazing and truly haunting.
That's also how I felt after leaving the theater. I felt just as lost and haunted as poor Freddie. Anderson's film is intentionally vague. There are no great character archs or traditional climax of any sort. The characters interact on screen, and when they do it's amazing to behold, but then they just float away. The first shot of the film are waves breaking in the ocean. That's exactly what The Master is structured like. All in all it's a marvelous cluster fuck, just like Freddie Quell himself.
As the film's director, Anderson is Dodd, playing the role of master to his guinea pig Freddie/ the audience. I saw the The Master in 70mm projection at the Arclight Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, my senses were so overwhelmed by the ginormous visuals and sounds I was like Freddie during the "processing" scene, completely at the master's mercy. I can't wait to delve into this film again and build up my defenses. Maybe then I can piece together all the thing's PTA was hinting at, about id and ego, acceptance and dependency, fucking yin and yang. Til then, I say go see The Master on the biggest screen you can and marvel at top tier film making and Oscar worthy performances.