I wait for P. T. Anderson’s movies and, aside from Punch Drunk Love, have never been disappointed. Magnolia is one of the best movies of the nineties and There Will Be Blood, of the aughts.
Like Blood, The Master focuses on one character and one actor intensely, and so, continues a shift in the kinds of movies Anderson is making. If early works wove a tangle of stories into a sweeping, seamless whole, these last two movies seek out depths by sitting and staring.
What I liked best about this story was that I had no ready context for accounting for the characters’ behaviour. Although credible and real, they were alien enough that I had to observe and assess their actions and intentions moment-by-moment. What is he doing? Does he really mean that? What on earth is she talking about? And these weren’t simply suspense-based questions about plot. They are mysteries, and their solutions are completely wrapped up in my own responses and judgments. Do I like this character? is a question that carries interpretive weight here.
And the result was that I couldn’t look away. I didn’t dare miss anything. And as I watched and the movie began to draw to a close, more and more information began to fall into place opening whole new possibilities about what was going on earlier. It was absolutely exciting to live through the screening. (And I did feel like I was living through it.)
And of course, it was technically flawless and absolutely beautiful to look at and listen to. The use of music and the quality of the photography are unmatched by anything I have seen recently. A beautiful movie, and there’s no higher praise than that.
So I remain an admirer and a fan. What a movie.