The Master - SPOILERS!

Started by polkablues, August 18, 2012, 01:41:45 AM

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Quote from: Ulivija on September 21, 2012, 01:42:55 PM
Dana Stevens reconsiders The Master:

calling that ebert will reconsider it as well. these critics were smacked in the face with this film they didn't know what to do. this chick and ol eebs should have taken my advice and tossed back a few after their first viewing and scribbled down their reviews with a clumsy hand.

god i need to get to this beast again this weekend

classical gas

I don't know if this has been brought up, but I saw some similarities to the end of TWBB with Plainview telling adult HW that he had used him and he no longer needed him, and with Dodd pretty much telling Freddie that he never wanted to see him again (in England).  Because Dodd, it seems, had simply used Freddie because he knew that he could, with Freddie being an unstable drifter who drank and he could show everyone how devoted this guy was to him.  But I think he wanted to use him also to almost psychoanalyze him and see what worked on certain people in order to get them to believe what he wanted them to believe.  He did tell Freddie near the beginning that he would be his apprentice and 'guinea pig', because Freddie was the type of person Dodd was after.  And apparently whatever he gathered from his time with Freddie worked out because he was successful at the end.  But he no longer needed Freddie, if he were going to betray him and go off on his own, just as Plainview thought HW had betrayed him by going into business himself.  So I thought this was showing two men (Plainview and Dodd) at the very beginnings of success, using these two people (HW and Freddie) and then basically throwing them out of their lives when they had both achieved their success.  I probably could have explained that better, but I just got back a couple of hours ago from seeing the film.

And if the movie theater and the phone call were a dream, then why did Dodd seem so pleased (and not surprised) that Freddie had brought him those Kool cigarettes?


PSH's delivery of "If you leave, I never want to see you again. Or... you could stay...?" was the moment that made me decide he deserves the Oscar over Joaquin. Of all the things you can say about this movie, preeminent is that it brought film acting to another level. Fifty years from now, there will be entire acting classes devoted to JP and PSH's performances in this film.
My house, my rules, my coffee


Quote from: MrBurgerKing on September 22, 2012, 04:47:31 AM
you are right about it causing enlightenment Pubrick

oh no, it's starting again. P didn't say that about this film ( but in his heart he knows its true ), he made a joke that 'The Tree of Life' would do that. And based on how this film affected me upon leaving the theater, and still now, I have deduced that is what it will cause. But maybe that's just because PTA is my Messiah and I've been to the promised land. It's also convenient that the sentence has the words CAUSE, MASS ( as in Master ) and a reference to spiritual liberation in it.

you guys have some great things to say about this film, why am I surprised? Gonna be camping out in this thread for awhile.

This is really obvious, but I thought for awhile about the significance of the name 'Dodd' and last night I realized it was right in front of my face all along.


Quell (definition) - to suppress; put an end to; extinguish


This might be a little rambling, but I haven't been able to stop thinking about this all night. As I reread it, some of it kind of interpolates a lot of what you guys have been saying.

I think Dodd's line in the jail cell when he tells Freddie that he's the only one who likes him is really interesting, especially in Freddie's addled denial of it. Dodd is right, in a way, because Freddie is a character who is incapable of fitting into anything. He fucks up every job he gets, and even in the Navy the only way he was really able to relate to the other men was in wanting to get drunk and laid, very base, animal instincts. But Freddie doesn't buy that, thinking fuck this guy and his made up shit, as Freddie has it in his delusional, dysfunctional head that Doris is home waiting for him. His girl. The one he talks about marrying. They're the only two people he feels a real connection to throughout the film. That's important.

But I think the scene in the movie theater is the MOST important part of the film. It definitely lends itself to the dream logic of the film, implying a connection to Dodd. There are several surreal (drunken?) touches throughout the film, like the naked musical number and Amy Adams' eyes turning black. Maybe the idea of him dreaming the phone call put off some viewers (?) but I don't see how people could think it wasn't a dream. It even cuts to him still asleep in the chair afterwards, and it's arguably the film's most meaningful and profoundly sad moment. Think about it: the last The Cause sees of Freddie is him speeding away on a motorcycle ditching them in the middle of the desert. He's proven to be consistently unreliable and unpredictable and, to everyone else but Dodd, detrimental to the group. As far as the members of The Cause are concerned, it's good riddance. No one likes him but Dodd. So who's the first person Freddie tries to see? Doris, the other person who likes him! Loves him, even! Who's been waiting for him to come back to her! Of course, only to realize that it's been seven years since he told her he'd come back, and she's understandably moved on. And now he has no one.

Except Dodd. And we find Freddie alone, asleep in a movie theater, watching a Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon. How serendipitous is it that he magically gets a call from his Master, inviting him to come back, as he knows how to cure Freddie now, and he remembers where they met, and to bring a pack of the cigarettes they bonded over following the initial, intense processing. He needs him to bring him some Kools. Even without the cutting to him still asleep afterwards, it's clear that this isn't actually happening. Freddie himself is surprised that he "found" him. These are all the things Freddie wants to hear Dodd say to him. He so badly wants a reason to go back to his Master. And the last thing heard in that scene is the cartoon, as a character says something very close to, if not exactly, "Remember, Casper, a captain never leaves his ship!" Cut to the haunting image of the blue water once again as Freddie heads overseas. I missed the impact of it at the time, but the more I thought about it, it was devastating.

The time skip here works differently than it does in TWBB, even though in a way they are very similar. Look at Freddie's trip to England from the point of view of The Cause: here's this incredibly mixed up, volatile figure from what seems to their distant past, as enough time has past for Peggy to have her baby and for The Cause to have become rather successful, this unstable alcoholic whose relationship with them didn't really end all that peacefully. He shows up out of the blue (literally) looking sick and unhealthy and awful. Who knows what his motives are? Who knows what he's going to do? They have to welcome him, lest his intentions be of a more violent nature. Val welcomes him with open arms. Lancaster accepts what to him is simply a nice gesture in the cigarettes, whereas Freddie believes he's fulfilled a specific request. Peggy is cold to him, of course, because she sees no use for him. To her, he made up his mind by leaving. Like she says, it isn't fashion. He clearly doesn't want to get better. Fuck him. She leaves. Then it's just them two.

It really is a movie about a Man and his Dog. Back in the desert, PSH tells him to pick a point and go as fast as he can towards it, like an owner taking off the leash and telling his troubled mutt to get. There's no pleasure in Freddie's face as he rides away, unlike Dodd who was having a blast. As he speeds up, Dodd acknowledges it and follows it by saying "Good boy." Note, he never tells him to come back. I think he was hoping Freddie would leave for good, which goes back to, what I think is, the definitive line in the film at the end when he asks Freddie to let them know of "the day you can live without serving a Master." Freddie just wants reconciliation, and Lancaster recognizes how unhealthy and utterly futile it is. But at the same time, Dodd's "Or... you could stay...?" shows that his need is almost as desperate, if not as desperate, as Freddie's. The push and pull dynamic of this relationship is complex and hard to fully comprehend, but the emotion behind it is raw and you can most certainly feel it, which is an astonishing feat on PTA's part. What is it all ultimately saying? I'm still not sure. It's a very dichotomous film, and I think it's much more coherent than people are giving it credit for. You just have to submit to it on its terms and not your own. It definitely seems to be making a point about everyone being in servitude towards something, whether it's a partner or a vice. But it doesn't really condemn it. The last shot is mystifying in itself. I don't know, exactly. I definitely want to see it again, as the subtext of the scenes proves to be crucial, and its disjointed narrative can make it hard to recall the exact progression of events. And this is just all from a storytelling standpoint. The filmmaking and acting is immaculate. The film as a whole is just mind blowing and deeply affecting, even if you aren't totally sure of why it's affecting you. There's no way any other film will top it this year.

edit: some grammatical/clarity errors.


Quote from: MrBurgerKing on September 22, 2012, 01:31:07 PM
BTW: I laughed when he says he is a nuclear physicist. no you ain't. that is high science. makes his character funny

And that was so L. Ron Hubbard as well, he would just create degrees and service records that pretty much mirrored all his failures in life. As a kind of denial, yet astounding charisma would often fill in the cracks.

On this note I really liked the scene when Laura Dern comes up to him and asks for explanation on why he changed  the wording for the processing. on one side you see Dern's character is a nagging religious bottom liner, like oh so many fanboys/girls of whatever subject it might be. yet on the other hand you can see she is really conflicted with this change in their religion and doesn't like the idea of revision, because she has built so much of her own understanding, contentment, and happiness on the principles. it's almost like Jesus is shaking the proverbial table underneath the house of cards that is her faith/sanity.

on the other hand Hoffman is great as well, just utterly annoyed. you get a sense that he must get this a lot. he seems tired of providing the answers, especially when someone nitpicks on every "i" and "t".

but what this scene really does more than anything, once you get past the humour of both of their irritations, is show how she's totally right on calling him on his shit. L. Ron Hubbard was quoted two months before dyanetics and his self help movement became a religion as saying that "real money is in religion." he said this as a response to an interviewer asking him if he made a lot of money off of his science fiction novels and self help books. it's clear that hubbard saying this is referring to the tax breaks that his self help material received the moment that it became a religion.

to me this scene is that moment, Dern is asking him "why is it now imagine? when it used to be recall. it implies that the past lives aren't concrete." Dodd does a bad job toting the party line telling her that the new phraseology is to help unlock the mind faster than previously. but yet she persists that it changes the meaning entirely. he knows she's right, and attacks her for it. I like how the film showed these moments when people wake up out of the brainwash, much like the older rich woman earlier in the film.

I'm quite sure the true reason why dodd changed the phraseology is because it would reach a wider group of people. words like "imagine" are much more palletable than "recall." 'Past life' is a big stretch when you're looking for parishioners, and ultimately their capital. when you change words like this, to make it safer and bizarrely more esoteric, its all to escape strange specifics. Specifics that keep you from growing as a religion and thus hinder profitability. but you risk one issue that might cause blowback. every once and a while you'll get someone that really knows the material and grill you on the truth, so you just got to scream at them to put them back in place.

brilliant scene. among many.

Quote from: MrBurgerKing on September 22, 2012, 01:31:07 PM
maybe a tragic part of the film, is that Dodd does help people, his techniques work, but they work too well.

well said, and why it's the most beautiful and dangerous thing. some people just want focus in their lives, and maybe the focus means more to them than free will.
the one last hit that spent you...


Building off of MrBurger/Socket's concept of Master's practices working on people initially and later being tainted, I think we should look at the motif of the three distinct shots of the (fucking beautiful) treading water as a lens to further investigate this:

The first shot of the wake is still, no tilt up. (FIRST SHOT OF FILM, before Master)
The second shot of the wake tilts up all the way to the horizon and stays there. (AFTER FIRST PROCESSING WITH FREDDIE, on Alethia)
The third shot begins to tilt up and then gets cut off before reaching the horizon. (AFTER PROCESSING WITH FREDDIE after prison sequence/window to wall--roughly in that general sequence of the film I believe)

This motif is placed specifically at these particular moments of the film. I'm wondering what this actually has to do with Master's trajectory throughout film. If Master's untainted practice works initially, this motif would make sense for Freddie's freedom. Master relatively sets Freddie free for a point of time in the film, after that first intense processing sequence with no blinking. Freddie feels loved, even though he outbursts, he feels free--temporarily coming to terms with his emotions. Then once Freddie somewhat goes off the leash too far--"FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU!", "I'M THE ONLY ONE WHO LIKES YOU!", "FUCK YOU!"--Master stagnates his growth for the sake of not losing him; almost creating an addiction, the aim of any "successful" business. This particular part of the film--the third act--Freddie is attempted to be "quelled".

This is just an idea, but I definitely think those three different shots of the wake should definitely be put under the magnifying glass.

It kind of reminds me of the motif in TWBB where Daniel is digging for silver/burying Henry where the repeated overture is played.


OK guys I just got back home from the Alamo Drafthouse in Kansas City;  I didn't think our local theater where I was living (3 hours away) would get the flick (it did).  It was my first experience at a Alamo theater and holy shit it was awesome. When we walked in the theater and took our seats they were showing a documentary we had no idea what it was at first and then we realized it was footage off Hubbard.  I believe it was this one:

The film is still fresh in my mind and I'm not really sure what I want to type right now so I'll probably just read through this thread and come back.  First impression though is I think this might be my second favorite PTA film possibly could jump ahead of CMBB with some more viewings.  I do want to ask what was your guys theater crowd like? The reason I ask because I found parts of the film to be pretty funny and was laughing quite a bit (which I wasn't expecting) but the other moviegoers were dead silent especially during the PIGFUCK line.

The Ultimate Badass

During the final scene between Freddy and Lancaster set inside Dodd's office at his school in England, there is a small statue on Dodd's desk of a sailor behind a ship's wheel. I thought it looked a very much like the Man at the Wheel Cenotaph in Gloucester, MA -- a fishing village not far from Freddy'd hometown of Lynn, MA. It's a memorial dedicated to all those lost at sea:

Is this the same statue? I'll have to look more carefully when I see it again to be sure. If so this may be clear evidence that PTA actually has embedded some hidden Kubrickian subtext, as many suspect.


does anyone know wtf Freddie says after Peggy sue disses him and then bounces?


If I remember right, it was something along the lines of, "She's softened up."
My house, my rules, my coffee


I forgot to ask when I was on yesterday but did it explain why Freddie was with the 16 year old girl Doris?  I missed part of that scene because I went to the bathroom.

Also, When id it became cool to call every single movie that is released "pretentious"..


I saw The Master last night. I had to drive an hour and half for a 10:30 showing.  I didn't get home until after 2 am last night. It's similar to how I saw CMBB.  I didn't think CMBB was playing anywhere near me but just did a random search at the last moment and found out there was a midnight showing about 40 minutes away.  I didn't get home until after 3 am for that one.

I didn't have the same reactions to the films though. The Master didn't work for me.  I didn't like it. There were some great things about the film but didn't think it worked as a whole. It was a very beautiful film to watch. The cinematography was fantastic. Interested to see the Elswit vs Malaimare debate. The reoccurring image of the wake was really powerful. I went in completely fascinated with Joaquin Phoenix's performance from what I saw in the trailers. While both give great performances, I left the film thinking Phillip Seymour Hoffman gave the more solid performance. There were some unbelievable scenes. The best of any PTA film.  I was memorized and couldn't blink during the don't blink or we start over scene.  The final scene between Freddie and Dodd was great. The movie would get really good followed by a fantastic scene but then I felt it would recede.

In the end, it felt lacking in a lot of ways. I agree a lot with the Ebert review. I'm hoping if I give it some time and revisit the film again in the future it'll click for me cause I want to love this film. It sucks when you're excited for a film that doesn't turn out how you hoped or you're the only one that doesn't see the greatness of a film that everyone else sees.
If you think this is going to have a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention.


Quote from: Kellen on September 23, 2012, 10:58:26 AM
I forgot to ask when I was on yesterday but did it explain why Freddie was with the 16 year old girl Doris?  I missed part of that scene because I went to the bathroom.

If I recall it correctly, they didn't mention how the two got together. Freddie didn't know who old she was and was shocked by how young she was. I got the impression the two hooked up in one of Freddie's drunken binges right before he left for war or she was just some girl from the neighborhood Freddie knew casually.

Quote from: Kellen on September 23, 2012, 10:58:26 AM

Also, When id it became cool to call every single movie that is released "pretentious"..

After my second viewing of Tree of Life, I left the theater and there were three teenagers standing right outside the door. Two boys with a girl. The girl was literally laughing uncontrollably.  So much so she was bent over holding her side.  It didnt  come across as she was doing this for dramatic effect but seemed to be an honest reaction to the film she just saw when she said, "That was the most pretentious shit I've ever seen." And she was right.  Tree of Life is one of the most pretentious self involved films ever but I still think it's one of the best films I've seen in a very long time. Sorry, but wanted to share that story.
If you think this is going to have a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention.