The Master’s “Informal Processing”

After his 2007 epic, There Will Be Blood, director Paul Thomas Anderson went in a more intimate direction with 2012’s The Master, story of the non-sexual, though certainly homoerotic, romance between two men who need each other but may also bring out the worst in each other. Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a sailor returned from World War II with post traumatic stress disorder and more than a few antisocial tendencies. Freddie flits from job to job, state to state, mishap to mishap, until he stows away on a boat rented by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd, the titular “master,” the charismatic leader of a religious/philosophical movement called “The Cause.” In an early scene, Dodd treats Freddie to some “informal processing,” an early step in indoctrination to “The Cause.” The scene is a stunner, Freddie is all tic-y discomfort, Dodd is all cold inquisitiveness. Anderson has made a habit of pulling career best performances from actors: Burt Reynolds, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Wahlberg, Tom Cruise, Adam Sandler, arguably Daniel Day-Lewis. The same could be said for his work with the two stars of The Master, his longtime collaborator Hoffman, and Phoenix, with whom he would work again on 2014’s Inherent Vice, who were then, perhaps, the two best leading men currently working. In the scene, Anderson, let’s the two master actors go with little camera movement or editing, shooting in all in gorgeous 70mm. Check it out:

 

 

The Master is available on Netflix

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