Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

The Master

You gotta serve someone. That's the thesis being examined here. So lets take as louche a character as we can imagine- Freddie Quell- just out of the army- cuntstruck, amiable, violent, uncommitted, lupine- with a talent for concocting drinkable hooch from the contents of medicine cabinets and don't ask what else. He's adrift- on the run from the family of a man he has inadvertently poisoned (because there's an art to drinking Freddie's hooch)- and lopes aboard the yatch carrying the family and disciples of cult leader, Lancaster Dodd.

It's been said that this is a film about L. Ron Hubbard but it's not. For one thing Dodd- unlike Hubbard- may not be a fraud. He's a showman, certainly, but that's not to say his cabinet of curiosities is all fakes and fijis.  This complicates Freddy's choice. Should he serve this Master or continue serving his appetites? It's not clear- not ever clear- whether serving Dodd would be a good choice or not. Maybe- as the army medic who administers Freddy with a Rorshach test says - there are no right answers.

And then Dodd himself: who does he serve? Could he be serving his appetites like Freddy, or the wife who dicates his revelations to him? Or could he be serving the Truth? Damn, but we're not going to be given any help in making up our minds.

Paul T. Anderson is one of the best American directors of the modern age (God knows how he gets funding for these tricky, uncompromising movies of his) and he's working here with two of the best American actors- Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman (much missed.)  The Master is a cloud castle of the imagination- frankly fantastical in parts- anchored by two utterly believable characterisations.
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