The Master ★★★★

Beautiful. Painful. Frightening. Thought-provoking.

So many accolades have been given to this picture for its stunning cinematography and the brilliant performances by Phil Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix. And then there's that Clockwork Orange ending and the party of naked women -- what's up with that stuff? What more could I add to all the compliments? I didn't always understand what was going on between these guys, which means that a rewatch or three would be well worth it. (if I felt up to a rewatch)

Amy Adams astonished me here. I have never seen this side of her persona, so intense and downright scary. She's the power behind Master's throne, for sure, pushing him to be a certain way -- and using sex to control him in a very uncomfortable scene. She clearly wants The Cause to be aggressive. I believe she would approve of some of Freddie's violent responses, if she approved of Freddie.

I know this film is about Scientology, more or less. But I found myself thinking of Mormonism as well. You have your charismatic leader going around teaching his thoughts in a world that fears and distrusts him. As his influence grows, you see the start of a power structure. That structure needs enforcers (like Freddie) and cold-minded planners (like Adams's character). It's fascinating to see those elements begin to gather early in the group's existence.

The Master is not an easy film to watch, for sure. In the end, there's a strong sense of nihilism that will leave you feeling dirty inside.

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