Will’s review published on Letterboxd:
An unbelievably moving experience—PTA's newfound impressionism can make you weep for reasons of the bitterly incommunicable: case in point, the gentle piano segue of No Other Love as we transition from Freddie's salt-flat mirage vanishing into his return to Doris' (now vacant) household home.
What a change in pace this is from There Will Be Blood. I know Harvey Weinstein apparently thought this could've been a big hit with more press and marketing (I guess to cash in on the scientology allusions), but it's such an offbeat movie. The extended run of the film from first frame (the wake of the ship)—which btw, how beautifully fitting: the displaced waves of the sea as symbolic roundelay of the whole movie, the journeying of its returning lost souls through one life into the next?—up until Freddie meets Lancaster (and thus settles into a form of consistent routine) is probably PTA's most idiosyncratic play with narrative ever.
I love all of PTA's films but the subtle re-modulations that begin here and continuing on into Inherent Vice make them my two standout favourites (ok, Punch Drunk would be close. But generally speaking...) They're so profoundly subjective, worlds built from the inside out—where we're firmly into impression rather than expression—and the use of film form in doing so intelligent and sensitively handled. Single shots, single edits: they all leave really deep marks if you let them.
Watching The Master again now in light of Phantom Thread, it's funny how things come together because they do visibly form a trilogy of subtle ghost stories. Maybe here in The Master in the most obscure way of all thee, but nevertheless it is—a film that builds past and present out of the fabric of a tortured psyche yearning in conflict for the reconciliation of past (Doris, whose home is the same but whose person is vacant, like a ghost, when Freddie returns to visit her) with an open-book future. Additionally, the mystical overtones of Dodd's The Cause (proxy Ron Hubbard Scientology), whose foretelling of souls' reincarnate turns Freddie and Lancaster into celestial spirits, destined to meet and forget over and over as though they were on some kind of elliptical orbit.
Amazing film, words can only do so much. It's magical and beautiful and you never stop learning or feeling more each time you go back into it.