MadZack’s review published on Letterboxd:
I've been saved more times than I can count. I've never passed on a good baptism. I've given my soul to many different faiths, as many as I possibly could, and I've been loyal to each deity, or lack thereof, for as long as each ceremony lasted. I've been born again, I've feasted with the Hare Krishna, I've worn the tefillin, I've given my secrets to an E-meter, and I've taken acid in an attempt to cheat enlightenment by outsmarting the precision of the accepted path. I've scaled the ten sefirot with Rabbis and gentiles alike, I've hung with the mystics on Haight-Ashbury, selling them my loyalty for powerful crystals and spare cigarettes; bus tokens and oral legends, and I have also dined with Atheists and Priests, receiving holy communion from both. To the varied act of spiritual cleansing, I was once a sponge. I believed that the soul was a multi-faceted extension of the physical body and that it took many different belief systems to satisfy the many separate and unique dimensions of the spirit. I also loved unbearably. I was a faith-based hobo in the Abrahamic tradition. I immersed myself in these religious communities just for the raw experience of the people involved. When a man tries to save your soul, to open your eyes to his god, he loses place of himself, giving every ounce of emotional courage to you. The only act more intimate than that of spiritual cleansing is the act of sex. Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is a film about that intimacy.
I was once many different things but I was never Freddie Quell. I was never an animal.
Paul Thomas Anderson is the kind of artist that has more in common with a graceful chameleon than a boastful lion. In the course of his impressive career, Anderson has assumed several different identities; that of Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Jean-Pierre Melville, Stanley Kubrick, and Terrence Malick. What is most outstanding about his brand of assimilation is that by mirroring all of these different filmmakers, Anderson is honing that might someday be the ultimate filmmaking craft. He does not make replicas, he produces lyrical expansions of preexisting formats. The man must have a terribly strong spirit for all of his films overflow with the ethereal. Paul Thomas Anderson is the kind of artist that has been able to redefine film for the 21st century by reexamining its established techniques and fine-tuning each of them into an ambiguous array of fresh possibilities. He is the kind of artist that world needs right now.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was the greatest actor of his generation and personal emblem of mine. He was the kind of performer that transported you into the world of whatever film he was acting in. Philip Seymour Hoffman was a genius. He was a king among kings and a master of men. He was simply one of the most incredible talents ever photographed. His loss still stings deeply. His death was an unbearable and tragic event. The modern arena of screen acting collapsed on February 2, 2014. It was a chemical obliteration of an unspeakably brilliant artist. Hoffman was the kind of actor that transcended the medium of film. He was the kind of actor that absorbed you. He never changed the world but he changed people. I was one of those forever altered by Philip Seymour Hoffman. In the temple of spirits, his is the most powerful light. Watching Philip Seymour Hoffman act is an out-of-body experience. Watching him perform is one of the ultimate gifts of art.
Lancaster Dodd needs to legitimize The Cause. He needs to tame the animal of Freddie Quell. In taming the beast of Quell, Dodd might also be able to tame himself. The Master is a film about rabid intimacy. It's about mental sex and the homoerotic domination of will. It's about carnal submission, both physically and intellectually. It is a film about psychological coitus, about two people experiencing intimacy and infinity, and it's about consensual, wild brain sex. It's about the salacious nature of faith. It's a love story about the master and his follower. This is the torrid, passionately epic love story of Lancaster Dodd and Freddie Quell.
Every living thing in the animal kingdom serves a master. This is the story of the one creature who refused to kneel and the powerful suitor who gave the beast his unmerciful soul. It's about being mentored into disbelief, into emotional and physical oblivion. Lancaster Dodd is Freddie Quell's master and Freddie Quell is Lancaster Dodd's. They worship each other openly and strongly, as intimately as soulmates, as intensely as past partners and future enemies. The journey, the spiritual intersections that have joined Dodd and Quell together, did not begin with the events of The Master and it certainly doesn't end with 'A Slow Boat To China'. This is true love or true hate, a true experience. The ultimate kind of passion through the ages, The Master being the presentation of the middle stage in their spiritual path. The Master documents the fork in the road between two souls destined to clash. The last moment of peace between them is one of the most emotional bits of cinema I have ever seen. When next they meet, they will kill each other. The next life will be about animosity and torture. The Master told of the life that was filled with a final chance at friendship.
The Master is unbelievably intimate and powerful. It is composed more lyrically than There Will Be Blood or Magnolia, prosaically in an almost Malick-infused way, while remaining unique to the inherent oneness of a film about spirits, with a palpable, deeply soulful pathos. While it may be a thinly veiled attack on the Church of Scientology, Paul Thomas Anderson is far too bright to devote his film entirely to commentary. The Master is a film about soulmates that find not love but future wars. The Master is a film that is much larger than it seems, with patient takes and a generous amount of moral ambiguity, Paul Thomas Anderson focuses on The Cause, unconcerned with the legitimacy of the movement in favor of the authenticity of its charismatic leader. The Master is an abstract entity that requires an involved conversation with the viewer. The Master is symbolic interactionism at its most sociologically micro. It's about defining the soul by conjoining two separate ones. It's a treatise on sex and believing. It's not about forgiveness, it's about the ride. The Master is a genius film that I consider to be Anderson's best. It is an unending masterwork.
Joaquin Phoenix is the kind of actor that movie lovers dream about. 'Brilliant' doesn't even begin to cover his abilities. He's a phenomenon. Phoenix is a brave actor of tremendous craft and a seemingly endless amount of perfect skill. Under the direction of Anderson, his talent flourishes. The Master gives us Phoenix at his most unhinged and raw. It gives us the two greatest performances of the 21st century. Hoffman and Phoenix will live forever within the frames of The Master. They will sing and scream, dance, wrestle, and love, for all eternity.
The Master is a film about synchronicity with a passive interest in Jungian archetypes. The power of coincidence is a reoccurring motif in Anderson's works but it is with The Master where the providence of chance is fully realized and developed. Having mastered serendipity, Paul Thomas Anderson can now finally close the book on happenstance. Paul Thomas Anderson perfectly captured fate and mastered its visual complexity of reasoning.
I am reminded of the mystics I met in San Francisco. I am reminded of the unique intimacy of a group religious experience. I never once found god or anything resembling spiritual understanding. What I found were people that already understood the infinite question and just being around them seemed to generate a knowing sphere for me to walk through. The Master is a film about the collision of two souls, it's about the preordained trajectory of them, and the consequences of their meeting. My life is about the same thing. Sometimes I know the answer to the infinite question but it's not something you can analyze or articulate, it's something you have to experience over and over again before it begins to make sense. The Master is a film that I always wished for but never thought I'd ever see. It tamed me, it consumed me, it wowed me, and it soothed me.
It mastered me.