Movie Reviews The Master
The Master opens tonight in just three theaters in New York and two in Los Angeles. Presumably they're among the few in the country -- perhaps the only ones -- that remain capable of projecting 70mm film. While some critics praise director Paul Thomas Anderson's commitment to the medium of film, others suggest that the quality of the picture on the screen is really no different from the best digital presentations. (The film will widen next weekend to more conventional venues, including IMAX theaters, which can take full advantage of the clarity of 70mm.) The film has already won a fair share of ardent reviews internationally, following its debut at the Venice Film Festival, where Anderson was named best director, stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix jointly received the best actor award and the film itself would have been awarded the Golden Lion trophy except for the fact that festival rules forbid bestowing more than two awards on any one film. It received additional raves when it was screened at the Toronto Film Festival last weekend While Anderson has denied that the film is about Scientology, virtually every critic dismisses that assertion. "Sure it is," comments Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal, who writes that it addresses "the all-too-human process of eager seekers falling under the spell of charismatic authority figures, be they gurus, dictators or cult leaders. Or, in the case of this masterly production, a couple of spellbinding actors." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post is among several critics who are predicting Oscar nominations for the director and stars. He calls their work in the film "master-ful." Joe Neumaier in the New York Daily News writes that Hoffman's performance is "perfect to the bone." and "Phoenix gives the performance of his career ... his masterpiece of quirk." To A.O. Scott of The New York Times , The Master is "imposing, confounding and altogether amazing." He concludes, "It is a movie about the lure and folly of greatness that comes as close as anything I've seen recently to being a great movie." And Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times addresses the elephant in the room, maintaining that The Master is not some sort of exposé of Scientology. It's a film bristling with vivid moments and unbeatable acting, but its interest is not in tidy narrative satisfactions but rather the excesses and extremes of human behavior, the interplay of troubled souls desperate to find their footing."