Indiewire has collected many of the tweets for Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, which has been having pop-up screenings here and there. Last night, the film screened at The Music Box. The best review of it is also on Indiewire. The reactions have been twofold. Viewers are dazzled by what they see, in some cases, moved. But they need time to think about the story, time to digest what it means. One suspects that it could be a film revisited over many years to really suss out its meaning. Though this reviewer digs in a bit – Roger Ebert was one of the critics there last night so look for his review, too, to pop up:

Memory indeed plays an integral part of Anderson’s narrative, as Freddie seeks to run from his tortured past (his father died from alcoholism, while his mother was institutionalized) while also wanting to repair it, but the emphasis is placed not so much on the events that the characters remember, but the charged emotions behind them. Of course, it’s inevitable that comparisons to “There Will Be Blood” will be made, since both films focus on entrepreneurial men seen from simultaneously a detached and intensely personal point of view, but those claims only go so far here.

Jonny Greenwood’s score remains the most analogous aspect, with its wood-based, off-kilter compositions, but as a whole, “The Master” plays instead like the heart-stopping strings at the opening of ‘TWBB,’ only settled into a simmering pattern waiting for their next leap. With his incredible DP, Mihai Malaimare Jr., and production design team of David Crank and Jack Fisk, Anderson absolutely nails every period detail he’s going for, from costumes down to the impeccably crafted visual style. Speaking of which, if there was any doubt Anderson had about shooting in 70mm, the opening shot of crystal-clear, vibrant blue sea should dismiss those thoughts entirely. There is an immediate and immersive quality to the image here, and combined with the film’s sustained atmosphere of dread, it is altogether an experience at which to marvel.

Twitter reactions can be found here.

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  • rufussondheim

    Looks like it’s going to be this years Melancholia or Drive, something critics love but the Academy will ignore.

  • Charles

    Was Roger Ebert there? He tweeted that he was not going.

  • julian the emperor

    This one might be a bit too “difficult” for the Academy to fully embrace. Most reactions tend to stress some confusion about the implications of the narrative. Oscar don’t like too much ambiguity, we know as much. Hmm.

    On the other hand: That very ambiguity, to me, might indicate that this is so much more than an Oscar movie, maybe even a truly significant piece of art?

    I know what I would prefer it to be, if I had to choose. Oscar triumph vs. masterpiece? (Not that they are necessarily mutually exclusive concepts, but they very well might be in this case)

  • People didn’t think the Academy would get There Will Be Blood either, and it picked up eight nominations, the most that year. Also, 2007 was a very strong year for American filmmaking.

  • Paul

    This film will get Academy attention because it is a Weinstein film.

  • Bobb

    Yeah, where’d you hear that Ebert was there?

  • LaQuifa Wadley


    You are glib. Clearly.

  • steve50

    “Oscar triumph vs. masterpiece? ”

    Being both is not possible and I would venture to say it has never happened -and never will. Masterpieces require thought and multiple viewings while Oscar winners are viewed once by a few, then campaigned to death to the remaining membership for the win.

    Sounds like The Master will get some attention, but has a better chance to land on the Sight and Sound 2022 list. And that’s fine with me.

  • Mattoc

    “the Master is Amnesiac to There Will Be Blood’s Kid A” – someone tweeted

    I found Amnesiac far more accessible so I’m happy.

  • Drew

    Questioning oscar chances? Are we forgetting that this movie has one of the top jews in hollywood behind it. It looks brilliant and it’s got the gold statue king behind it. I ain’t scarred.

  • Tero Heikkinen

    I get Drive, but Melancholia was average at best. Stop talking about it like it was the second cumming of Lars’ next porn film. I want to see actual sex – so Lars is right there. Dunst didn’t fuck in the film for real.

    Lars’ last good film was Dogville – Nicole was not raped for real, and it kind of sucks.

  • julian the emperor

    Drew: Watch that rhetoric of yours. Not wholly pleasant. I honestly don’t see why you had to attach “top Jews” to that description, wasn’t “gold statue king” telling enough?

    I’m usually not intimidated by political incorrectness, but this one hit the wrong note.

  • julian the emperor

    Tero: Feel happy that we are talking about two Scandinavian (read: Danish) directors. We, Scandinavians (read: Danes) are at the forefront of current cinema…;)

  • Tero Heikkinen

    I love it that you are kicking the Swedes’ ass.

    I am traveling to Norway in 2 hours (have not slept) and in exactly one week from now I can be found from Denmark (first time in Bornholm island). I know my shit when it’s Scandinavian.

  • Looptie

    Bobb: Ebert didn’t go, claiming it wasn’t the final print. Which was entirely incorrect. The print is entirely colour-timed, entirely mixed. The end credits either weren’t shown or were lopped off so Venice and TIFF can still claim “premier” status of the “complete” film. Roger was being obtuse, or at least gullible.

  • Mattoc

    Saw The Hunt last night. Excellent Scandanavian film.

  • julian the emperor

    You saw The Hunt, Mattoc? That one is scheduled for a Danish premiere in february 2013! Can you imagine!? We have to wait SO long for a film by a beloved compatriot. That sucks.

    Enjoy Bornholm, Tero! That is a wonderful island (mostly), completely unlike the rest of Denmark. That’s why God put it near Russia, I guess…

  • Mattoc

    Yes, part of a film festival in Melbourne. They spared no expense this year and had a great lineup. It’s not right that you don’t get to see it first.

  • Bobb

    That’s what I saw, too, Looptie, I thought Sasha had some new info. I’d love to see his review.

  • Duck Soup

    Steve apparently hasn’t seen The Godfather, Amadeus, Annie Hall, or No Country for Old Men, amongst other best picture triumphs/masterpieces.

  • Mattoc

    ^ I would bet he has. Masterpiece is a strong word though and is used far too loosely these days.

    I used it the other day to describe Haneke’s latest. I used the word inappropriately and too quickly because I’m still sorting it out. Is it? Probably, but I need to see it again.

  • steve50

    “The Godfather, Amadeus, Annie Hall, or No Country for Old Men, amongst other best picture triumphs/masterpieces”

    I’ll give you two of those four, Duck Soup. Two out of 80-something indicates that masterpiece selection is not an AMPAS goal.

    Mattoc is right – “masterpiece” is used too often and seldom applies in reality.

  • rufussondheim

    I don’t even like the word masterpiece. It implies objectivity when there can’t possibly be any. Everything about the word screams subjectivity. Even if everyone could agree of what the minimum standards that constitute a masterpiece are, how does one measure up the qualities of any film to those standards?

    Then thrown in the elitist implications of such a word. “Oh you don’t think X is a masterpiece? Really? Apparently you don’t know enough to see what we see.” I would hope that most filmmakers have more broadminded intentions than to be loved by a self-selected few.

  • steve50

    “I would hope that most filmmakers have more broadminded intentions than to be loved by a self-selected few.”

    From a business perspective, I would agree with you. From an artistic perspective, however, I’d prefer they make movies for themselves – unfettered by commercial considerations – so I can see their true intentions, warts and all. Just makes it more personal and rewarding.

    Yeah, “masterpiece” is a label that should be applied by the director to the piece he considers to be he best representation of his ability. How the hell are we supposed to know if it’s an intentional masterwork or a happy accident?

  • julian the emperor

    Why can’t a masterpiece be a “happy accident”? I think a lot of masterpieces are exactly that. Intuition is a trait of the most gifted and “happy accidents” is one of the outcomes when intuition is at play.

    I use the term “masterpiece” very loosely, btw. To me, a masterpiece is a work by a master that demonstrates his/her skills in an exemplary way. Alas, there are LOTS of them!:)

  • moe greene

    Whoever in TWC’s marketing department who keeps pushing the storyline that this is subtly about Scientology is a total idiot. The Master is much more complicated than that. They are doing a disservice to PTA. Nobody out there beyond the film geeks will see this movie if they keep pushing that angle.

  • Luke T


    I never comment on this site, but I liked your comment about subjectivity verse objectivity when determining a masterpiece. With that being said, though, the term has been around forever, and I don’t see it going anywhere.

    Instead of just throwing up the subjective/objective problem, why not try to classify what “masterpiece” means? Why not create elements that must be met in order to label a film (or any artistic work) a “masterpiece?”

    For example, how about–and this is just me spitballing here–these four things:

    1.) Insightfulness (How well does the film say something either profound or new?)

    2.) Innovation (Does the film do something so new–whether it be from a narrative/technical/whatever standpoint–that it may chance the way people create films in the future?)

    3.) Re-watch value (How well does the film hold up when same viewer watches it a second, third, or fiftieth time? Does the viewer learn something new on every watch?)

    4.) Timelessness (Does the film allow a viewer watching the film ten years later to be immersed and moved as deeply as a viewer who watched the film when it first released?)

    Again, these are not the be all end all elements to define a “masterpiece.” But, I think they’re a start that helps us look at these films through a more objective lens.

    Would be glad to hear any other elements the posters on this board would consider.


    — LT

  • Steve50

    Just to clarify – by happy accident I meant that the finished work did not represent the artist’s intentions and the value was projected entirely by the audience.

    I wasn’t referring to those things that occur by chance during the creation of something that makes the artist stop and say, “Hey – look at this!”. Big difference.

    I like your critera, LT.

  • Keil Shults

    BP masterpieces:

    Casablanca, The Apartment, Midnight Cowboy, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Annie Hall, The Silence of the Lambs, No Country for Old Men

    Cases could also be made for:

    Gone With the Wind, Rebecca, It Happened One Night, The Lost Weekend, On the Waterfront, Lawrence of Arabia, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, Schindler’s List, and a few other pre-1967 movies I won’t bother naming

  • cyrus

    On a side note would be great to see JACk FISK get another Oscar nomination, do you folks know he’s married to the wonderful and amazingly gifted SISSY SPACEK?

  • rufussondheim

    Luke, thanks for the thoughtful consideration and those 4 are great criteria anyone can apply. I couldn’t one-up you if I tried. But, even then, I think they are lacking. Let’s look at Silence of the Lambs. It’s a wonderfully made film with great acting and tight direction. There’s not a false note in the film, and everything is edited and tailored to perfection. But, and it’s a big but, it’s not particularly insightful or complex. It has great rewatching ability but I don’t get or see anything new, at least not the last time I watched it. But it is a great film and I would label it a masterpiece if it were in my power to do so.

    Perhaps my annoyance with the word is because so few people would label my favorite films as masterpieces. Heck, most people don’t even label my favorite films as good films.

  • julian the emperor

    The problem with the definition of the term, is that it is so often thought of as denoting a very complex, accomplished work, that has to be not only technically, structurally and thematically flawless, but do so in a manner that makes it consistent with the directors’ previous work or hint at a recurring set of themes or images within an oeuvre or a genre.

    But, to me, a masterpiece might as well be the simple, grimy or inconsistent (yet captivating) effort by an autodidact without a big budget. To name an example; Rosetta by the Dardenne brothers or, hell, Old Joy by Kelly Reichardt.
    I don’t feel compelled as such to call these films masterpieces, but they could as well be, in my view, as more “accomplished” films like There Will Be Blood or The Royal Tenenbaums or The Social Network (to name recent examples that more readily beg for the tag).

  • rufussondheim

    I almost always find flawed movies more interesting. I can’t explain why, I just do. It’s not like I enjoy terrible movies, but I think if everything is too polished, too cohesive I don’t find any tension to be present while I watch it. I want a movie to be a tight rope walker stumbling across the rope without a net. I absolutely want to see him get safely to the other side, but while a gifted tight rope walker might be more impressive, the flawed tight rope walker is more thrilling and ultimately more satisfying. “Hooray!” I can yell as the poor schlep reaches his destination. The confidant tight rope walker can be just a tad bit boring.

    It’s like when I watched The Social Network. I had heard so many great things about it and knew it was going to be a great movie. And it was. But not once when I watched the film did I ever think the whole thing was going to fall apart. I never doubted that Fincher would take me to the finish line and show me something fascinating about human nature when I got there (I know that’s a little reductive, but work with me here.)

    But then I watch a movie like Longtime Companion. It’s clearly slightly cheesy/campy. It plays out a little like a Lifetime movie. There’s a strange subplot involving two men with a slight connection to the main plot that never fully comes together. It’s too chummy with the intended audience to ever be taken truly seriously. And every time I watch it I’m like “OK, this is the time it’s going to push me over the edge and I will realize what a terrible movie this is.” But then I get to the final scene and I’m taken in all over again like every other countless time I’ve gotten there. When the movie ends all I want to do is scream to everyone I know “You have to see this movie!”

    Is it a fucking masterpiece, Longtime Companion? I don’t know and I don’t care. I just love the fuck out it more than I ever will Citizen Kane or Vertigo or whatever movie all the people in the know are telling me to love.

  • Mattoc

    “BP masterpieces:
    Casablanca, The Apartment, Midnight Cowboy, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Annie Hall, The Silence of the Lambs, No Country for Old Men”

    This is using the term inappropriately. For one, Coppola can’t have two, and the Coens would never consider NCFOM as their masterpiece.

  • Mattoc

    I like Longtime Companion, and is Rene’s masterpiece if I will. It’s also widely seen, influential and pioneering. It’s an IMPORTANT film.

  • steve50

    Good points made on the whole masterpiece designation thing from the last 3 posts.

    I guess my original (and a bit didactic) point was that Oscar does not set out to determine who has created a “masterpiece.” It’s job is more like annointing “employee of the month”, which is sometimes a great piece of work, sometimes not.

    A couple of my all time favorites have won BP, but only Coppola (for the first film, only) and Lean (LoA) can actually come close to laying claim to “that term” which I am not qualified to award. “Essentials” is the word I would use before “masterpieces” because it’s more personal, less promotional.

    I also agree with rufussondheim – you can adore a film which is not perfect and appreciate the imperfections which make it a more satisfying watch that some of the designated classics. Give me Hunger or Trainspotting over Casablanca or Singin’ in the Rain anyday. While I appreciate Picasso’s “Guernica”, but do I want it hanging behind my couch (actually, as the wall behind my couch)?

  • brandz

    There are very few masterpieces. That’s why they’re called masterpieces. The word/description is way, way overused in cinema, especially in America. The last ‘masterpiece’ I saw was A Separation in 2011. Before that it was Babel in 2006.

  • Jeremy

    You guys can argue semantics ’til the cows come home. All I know is that I hope The Master is really fuckin’ good. You can call that whatever you like.

  • It´s a good post, thank you very much.

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