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The Master

2 November 2012 Film

The Master

In the US Navy, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) made hooch and had sex with a woman made of sand, literally. In post World War II America, those abilities are not in demand. More brute than man, he slowly tumbles out of society until he lands on the yacht of Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Dodd heads ‘The Cause’, a group seeking to perfect its members through rigorous questioning and exploration of past lives. Quell’s booze-making skills earn him a place on board, but can Dodd’s methods help a man whose lusts and anger seem fathomless? Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s psychological focus on a symbol of America (in this case, a thinly disguised L Ron Hubbard) makes this a companion piece to his There Will Be Blood (2007). As imposing but less oppressive than Blood, it’s no exposé of Scientology. Rather it’s a struggle between two very different men striving to define their barely grasped humanity. Their process is all consuming; the results haunting.