The Master

Screen shot 2013-03-10 at 12.41.34

Entertainment In Video / Paul Thomas Anderson / 2012 / United States

Running Time: 144 minutes

Region Code: Region B

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Video: 1080p High Definition (AVC encoded)

Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Language: English

Subtitles: Optional English SDH (On/Off)

800_the_master_blu-ray_08_Arguably one of the biggest shocks of this year’s 85th Academy Awards was the fact that the great modern day auteur Paul Thomas Anderson’s captivating, challenging and beautifully crafted 2012 drama ‘The Master’, his fascinating and engrossing exploration of Scientology, Dianetics and Post-Traumatic Stress (and his first film since his towering 2007 masterpiece ‘There Will Be Blood’), did not receive a nomination for Best Picture, nor did Anderson himself receive a highly deserved nomination for Best Director.

The film has proved itself to be one of the most divisive films of recent times, simultaneously being hailed as both a searing masterpiece of filmmaking and a pretentious and prosaic cinematic failure, and though it may not quite have the visceral enduring quality or power of ‘There Will Be Blood’, and demands a great deal more from its audience, this is still a bold, hypnotic and expertly constructed piece of cinema, with Anderson effectively pushing the narrative boundaries to deliver a compelling, profound and rewarding piece of work.

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Having had the idea in his head for around twelve years prior to construction, Anderson began working on the script in 2009, having been inspired by a combination of the life stories of novelist John Steinbeck and founder of the Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard (with a focus on dianetics – his practice regarding the metaphysical relationship between the mind and body), John Huston’s highly controversial, landmark 1946 documentary ‘Let There Be Light’ (included as a special feature on this release) and unused scenes from early drafts of ‘There Will Be Blood’, which in themselves were inspired by the stories of life and drinking days in the US Navy, as detailed by Jason Robards on the set of Magnolia (1999).

The film tells the story of alcoholic, sex-obsessed World War II veteran, Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), who, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and struggling to adjust to a post-war society, finds solace and refuge in the form of ‘The Master’ Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the leader of a religious movement known as ‘The Cause’, who instantly takes a shine to Freddie and quickly welcomes him into the movement, developing a close and often intense relationship as they travel across the States on a profound journey of discovery, spreading the controversial teachings of ‘The Cause’.

The two central performances are outstanding, beautifully nuanced and perfectly realised, with the underrated Joaquin Phoenix justly earning his Academy Award-nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role, with a strong, intense and multi-layered performance in what is a very complex, demanding and very challenging role.

The Master Paul Thomas Anderson

Though this is ultimately Freddie’s film, with the central focus on his journey and struggles, the ever reliable Philip Seymour Hoffman, in the joint, eponymous leading role of ‘The Master’, delivers a tremendous and perfectly achieved performance of great depth, skilful intelligence and compelling power, and puzzlingly received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor and not for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

The supporting performances are of equally high standard, with a particularly standout performance from Amy Adams as Dodd’s stern, focused and practical wife, Peggy; another justly deserved Academy Award-nomination, here for Best Supporting Actress.

Though the film is never going to please everybody, and will continue to divide audiences, initiating both analysis and criticism for years to come, ‘The Master’ undeniably delivers some of the finest performances and most striking and impressive scenes of the year, with Anderson’s deep intelligence and acutely comprised screenplay, astute directorial skill and his adroit use of mise en scene and scenic composition bestowing greater levels of visually striking artistry, sweeping, expansive vision and overall finer quality to the piece; the first ‘processing’ session (a process of disturbing and deep psychological questioning aimed at unearthing and conquering past trauma) between Freddie and Lancaster proving one of the many highlights of the film; a sharp, visceral and superbly effective piece of cinema.

joaquin-phoenix-the-masterThe film was shot on 65mm film, using the Panavision System 65 camera, making it the first fiction film since Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 film adaptation of Hamlet to be shot in 65mm. As Anderson’s regular cinematographer, the Academy Award-winning Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood), with whom he had collaborated on his previous five films, was unavailable due to prior filming commitments, cinematographer Mihai Mălaimare, Jr., best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, was brought in as director of photography, and he does a truly outstanding job, creating some truly absorbing and visually sublime moments of cinema and beautifully utilising the quality and texture of the 65mm film.

In terms of picture quality, this is a truly stunning 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray presentation from Entertainment In Video, and though the current blu-ray resolution may not be sufficient enough to do full justice to the quality and detail of the original 65mm film negative, the combined levels of crystal clear definition, sharpness and detail, superb contrast, immersive depth and beautifully rendered colours, perfectly blending the intense, cool ocean blues with the warm, rich, golden tones and palette of the absorbing inland vistas, make this arguably the finest looking release of the year. (During post-production, Anderson chose to avoid using digital editing and a digital intermediate, instead cutting and editing using the original film negative and a photochemical timer for colour grading and enhancement, and though it is only very faint, the transfer effectively retains a level of authenticity with very welcome level of texture and natural grain).

WC9V2014.CR2 The MasterThe English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is equally as impressive, and though the sound mix respectfully complements the stunning visuals, highlighting the subtle ambience of the piece without ever becoming too overpowering or dynamic, levels are overall very-well rendered, dialogue is crisp and clear and Jonny Greenwood’s superb and highly unique, string heavy score (in a similar vein to his composition to ‘There Will Be Blood’) is presented with striking effect.

Special Features:

Back Beyond – Outtakes, Additional Scenes, Music by Jonny Greenwood

Unguided Message – 8-minute short / Behind the scenes

Teasers/Trailers

Let There Be Light (1946) – Joh Huston’s landmark documentary about WWII veterans

Overall:

Though liked and loathed in equal measure, for me, this is a superb and expertly constructed piece of work; perfectly paced (at times profound and melancholic and contrasted with raw, visceral emotion and compelling power), thoughtfully composed and brilliantly achieved. A striking, highly intelligent and visually stunning piece of work in a very highly recommended blu-ray release!

Release Date: 11 March, 2013:

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