Elliott’s review published on Letterboxd:
100 Greatest Directors Club: PTA
After viewing my second film from Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master my emotions were varied; I felt confused, delighted, depressed, scared and hopeless about the masterfully weaved stories that the director had just presented to me. I’m usually quite quick when it comes to deciphering a film’s main themes and undertones and what it’s trying to say but aside from the obvious parallels to scientology and L. Ron Hubbard I was left dumb-founded and spellbound by The Master. I of course loved the film immediately via Paul Thomas Anderson’s magnificent tracking and long shots, Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s enigmatic performances and the screenplay but upon further thinking about it the more I fell into its arms and appreciated it as a modern masterpiece.
The film is about hope, or a lack thereof it, as well as the effect that war has on a man. In my opinion Freddie Quill’s addiction to alcohol, fixation with sexuality and obsession with violence is all because he’s desperate to re-create the kick that the war gave him. Maybe it’s just me but that’s how I see our main character. Of course, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s character is very similar to Sydney in Hard Eight as he’s confident, well-spoken yet cunning and dangerous at heart but Hoffman’s commanding OSCAR-worthy performance elevates the character to new heights as his screen presence is incomparably alluring. The cinematography also gives the story a fresh edge- the camera lenses are varied and the shots go places you wouldn’t expect it to go and the shot on the boa where it looks like Quill is bigger than everyone else is absolutely perfect.
The score from Johnny Greenwood mixes lavish orchestrations with interesting percussive pieces at times that accompanies the highly psychologically and sophisticated story as it is a highly complex score. But aside from all technical achievements, the character of Freddie Quill held a strange emotional resonance with me that drove the film and made me love it more than I would solely based on technical achievement. Just watch it already!