Friday, December 14, 2012

The Master (2012)

The Master. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd.

    US © 2012 Western Film Company LLC. Presents: The Weinstein Company. PC: A JoAnne Sellar / Ghoulardi Film Company / Annapurna Pictures production. P: JoAnne Sellar, Daniel Lupi, Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison.
    D+SC: Paul Thomas Anderson. DP: Mihai Malaimare, Jr. – 65 mm Studio Camera – Kodak Motion Picture Film – Filmed in Panavision – Fotokem. Fotokem 65 mm Lab Services. Negative cutter (65 mm): Simone Appleby; negative cutter (35 mm): Rick Gordon). Digital film services producer: Jason Pelham. DCP colorist: Walter Volpatto. PD: Jack Fisk, David Crank. Set dec: Amy Wells. Cost: Mark Bridges. Makeup: Kate Biscoe. Hair: Miia Kovero. SFX: Michael Lantieri. VFX: Method Studios: Dan Glass – Gregory D. Liegey. CG supervisor: Nordin Rahhali. M: Jonny Greenwood – London Contemporary Orchestra – conductor: Hugh Brunt. Woodwind Ensemble Trio. Jazz Trio. Score mixed at: Abbey Road Studios. Soundtrack listing: see beyond the jump break. S: Christopher Scarabosio. Post prodcution sound services: Skywalker Sound. ED: Leslie Jones, Peter McNulty. Casting: Cassandra Kulukundis.
    C: Joaquin Phoenix (Freddie Quell), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Lancaster Dodd), Amy Adams (Peggy Dodd), Laura Dern (Helen Sullivan), Ambyr Childers (Elizabeth Dodd, Lancaster's daughter), Rami Malek (Clark, son-in-law of Lancaster Dodd), Jesse Plemons (Val Dodd, Lancaster's son), Kevin J. O'Connor (Bill William), Christopher Evan Welch (John More).
    V.A. Hospital – Capwell's Department Store: Salinas, California – The Boat: Lynn, Mass. – New York – Philadelphia – Band: England. Loc: California, Hawaii, Vallejo, Mare Island, The USS Potomac.
    137 min (production notes) - 144 min (IMDb).
    Released by Future Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Staffans. 2K DCP at 137 min viewed at Cinema Andorra, Helsinki, 14 Dec 2012 (preview).

Technical specs from the IMDb: - Camera: Panavision 65 HR Camera, Panavision System 65, Hasselblad and Kowa Lenses, Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2, Panavision Ultra Speed Z-Series MKII and Zeiss Jena Lenses, Panavision Panaflex System 65 Studio, Panavision System 65, Hasselblad and Kowa Lenses. - Laboratory: DeLuxe, Hollywood (CA), USA (35mm processing and photochemical timing), FotoKem Laboratory, Burbank (CA), USA (65mm dailies, processing and photochemical timing). - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 50D 5203, Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 200T 5213, Vision3 500T 5219), 65 mm (Kodak Vision3 50D 5203, Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 200T 5213, Vision3 500T 5219). Cinematographic process: Panavision Super 70 and Spherical (some scenes). Printed film format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision 2383), 70 mm (partial blow-up) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema. - Aspect ratio: 1.85:1.

Production information: "In the wake of World War II, a restless America emerged. It was a time of unprecedented national growth and aspiration, but also of rootlessness and lingering disquiet – and the combustion of these contrasting elements sparked a culture of seeking and questing that continues into the 21st Century. Young men returning home from the incomprehensible darkness of war forged a shiny new world of consumerism and optimism. Yet, many longed for to find more from life, longed to grasp onto something larger than themselves, something to halt the anxiety, confusion and savagery of the modern world."

"Paul Thomas Anderson’s sixth feature film, The Master, unfolds a vibrantly human story inside this atmosphere of spiritual yearning on the cusp of 1950. The film follows the shifting fortunes of Freddie, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, a volatile former Naval officer unable to settle down into everyday life, and the unpredictable journey he takes when he stumbles upon a fledgling movement known as The Cause. Coming to The Cause as an itinerant and outsider, Freddie will ultimately become a surrogate heir to its flamboyant leader: Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd. And yet, even as The Cause probes the mastery of human emotions, the camaraderie between Freddie and Dodd will mount into a fierce and intimate struggle of wills."

"The first feature film shot using 65 mm film stock in several decades, The Master is brought to life by a devoted cast and crew who have crafted a visually alluring and emotionally provocative portrait of three people pursuing a vision of betterment." (Production information).

More from the production information: "With The Master, Anderson became intrigued by the birth of a new kind of patchwork American family that arose out of the upheaval of World War II: those of alternative spiritual factions and newly established religions. From Eastern asceticism to Dianetics, the early 1950s became a time when many began to build grass roots communities devoted to realizing grand visions of human potential."

"“It was fertile ground for telling a dramatic and engaging story,” Anderson says of his fascination with this time of cultural upheaval and spiritual adventurism. “Going back to the beginning of things allows you to see what the good intentions were; and what the spark was that ignited people to want to change themselves and the world around them. Post-World War II was a period when people were looking forward to the future with great optimism but, at the same time, dealing with quite a lot of pain and death in the rear view mirror.”"

"He continues: “My father came out of World War II and was restless his whole life. It's been said that any time is a good time for a spiritual movement or religion to begin, but a particularly fertile time is right after a war. After so much death and destruction, people are asking ‘how come?’ and ‘where do the dead go?’: two very important questions.”"

"“It became Freddie’s tale,” says JoAnne Sellar. “In a sense, Freddie is the classic outsider who comes into a community and changes it – and what results is a kind of tragic love story between Freddie and Master. Freddie longs to be part of something bigger than himself, yet can’t commit. And Master yearns for Freddie to be the son he never had, yet can’t quite make that work.”"

Editor Leslie Jones: "We had to prepare the finished film for both a 70 mm and 35 mm release, which was like working on two separate movies. And because Paul likes to do a film finish we were cutting negative and timing photo chemically, so it was very time consuming.

When I write these remarks on 4 January, 2013, three weeks after seeing the film, The Master has been voted as number one in many polls of the best movies of 2012.

I like Paul Thomas Anderson's first films, such as Boogie Nights and Magnolia, and I look forward to seeing at last his debut movie Hard Eight. We will screen it at Cinema Orion this spring in our tribute to Anderson.

I found Punch Drunk Love hard to digest and found myself appreciating There Will Be Blood at a certain distance, recognizing its wonderful cinematography and innovative score - but as a whole it was not a very compelling experience for me.

The Master is also hard to take. Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a war invalid of the psyche. He has lost his direction of life, he is an alcoholic, he is volatile, violent, and dangerous. It is difficult for him to commit to work, and his capacity to form relationships is seriously deficient. He is a deranged, deeply disturbed man. Joaquin Phoenix's performance is magnificent.

Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is leader of a spiritual movement ("The Cause"), a charlatan who according to the confession of his son "is making this all up as he's going on". In the cinema similar figures have appeared in Frank Capra's The Miracle Woman, starring Barbara Stanwyck, and Richard Brooks's Elmer Gantry, starring Burt Lancaster, based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis. Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance is one of his best. He avoid the slimeball mode and plays Dodd as a businessman with colourful but always well controlled characteristics.

Paul Thomas Anderson is at his strong, familiar ground portraying "The Cause" as a family, the actual Dodd family at the center. As others have noticed, Amy Adams as Ms. Dodd is the Lady Macbeth of this story.

Psychologically, Freddie the drifter is a lost son looking for a family into which to belong, but also hoping to establish a family of his own (he comes too late to propose in a touching scene where he is informed that his sweetheart has been married three years ago). Lancaster is a father figure who starts to see in Freddie a son figure, but Freddie is an unpredictable, violent, and skeptical son, and their ways must part.

I find it hard to relate to The Master. I don't expect to relate to any of the characters (neither the madman nor the swindler), but I'd look forward to relate to the viewpoint of the director, and this I fail to find.

Memorable features: - The sand woman in the beginning and the conclusion. - The Rorschach test. - The factual aspects in the account of the veteran's hospital, inspired by John Huston's Let There Be Light, among others. - The job as a photographer in the 1940s. - The outrageous bluff in Dodd's "spiritual movement" which is also a kind of a spoof and a game for grown-ups. The spiritual hunger is so great that there is also a demand for surrogates. - "The time travels" under hypnosis. - The dignified ladies strip their clothes in the spiritual sessions. - Ms. Dodd to her husband: do what you want as long as I don't get to know. - Ms. Dodd on Freddie: "perhaps he's past help or insane". - The self-spoofing dimension of the movement: in the rock in the desert there is a casket with the Master's unpublished work. - Although the Master is a fake, he is not wrong all the time. He does touch spirituality for instance in the motorcycle test in the desert. - Lancaster to Freddie: "you can't take this life straight".

Jonny Greenwood's score is very interesting, and besides, there is an evocative period song compilation score. I did not know previously or had not paid attention before to Jo Stafford's interpretation of "No Other Love", a beautiful song arrangement of Frédéric Chopin's Étude No. 3 in E. I didn't even recognize the Chopin source at once, although it is one of the most popular music themes in the cinema. The tune has later been called "Tristesse", but it was interestingly used by Robert Youngson as the music theme of his series of tributes to comedy classics, starting with The Golden Age of Comedy. Perhaps it was the contrast that made the music theme selection so effective. In Anderson's film the song conveys the sense of something familiar that has been lost, or a sense of loss in general. Freddie has lost his mind and his grip on life. He loses his illusions on Lancaster Dodd, the swindler's counterfeit spirituality, and the family based on a fake. Dodd's world is like the woman of sand, an Ersatz creation that feels exciting only in the lack of the real thing. Freddie is deranged, but perhaps he'll find his life again.

The 2K DCP presentation conveyed much of photochemical feeling of the cinematography. There is a sense of grandeur in the period scenes and the nature scenes. The choice of the magnificent 65 mm format in the cinematography has not directed the film into a spectacle mode, on the contrary. Much of the movie has been shot in close-ups.

Soundtrack listing from the end credits:

from ’48 Reponses To Polymorphia’
Written by Jonny Greenwood
Performed by The Aukso Chamber Orchestra
Courtesy of Unreliable Ltd.

Written by Irving Berlin
Performed by Ella Fitzgerald
Courtesy of The Verve Music Group
Under license from Universal Music Enterprises

Written by Miguel Velarde Jr.

Written by Victor Young and Will Harris
Performed by Noro Morales
Courtesy of RCA Records Label
By arrangement with Sony Music Licensing

Written by Jonny Greenwood
Performed by The Aukso Chamber Orchestra
Courtesy of Unreliable Ltd.

Written by Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots
Performed by Larry Clinton and His Orchestra
Courtesy of RCA Records Label
By arrangement with Sony Music Licensing

Written by Lew Brown, Charles Tobias and Sam Stept
Performed by Madisen Beaty

Written and Performed by Duke Ellington
Courtesy of Columbia Records
By arrangement with Sony Music Licensing

Written by Billy Strayhorn
Performed by Duke Ellington
Courtesy of Columbia Records
By arrangement with Sony Music Licensing

Traditional, arranged by Justin Goldman and Hal Willner
Performed by Philip Seymour Hoffman

Written and Performed by Eban Schletter

Written and Performed by Eban Schletter

Written by Ella Fitzgerald and Van Alexander
Performed by Melora Walters

Written by Bob Russell and Paul Weston
Performed by Jo Stafford
Courtesy of Capitol Records
Under license from EMI Film & Television Music

Written by Winston Sharples
© 2011 Classic Media, LLC.
Casper, its logos, names and related indicia are trademarks of and copyrighted by Classic Media, LLC. All rights reserved.

Written by Frank Loesser
Performed by Philip Seymour Hoffman

Written by Larry Coleman and Joe Darion
Performed by Helen Forrest
Courtesy of Olden Golden, Inc.

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