Sunday, January 12, 2014

A note on "The Master"

I watched Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master." It was much better than "There will be blood," but still it was a mediocre film for PTA, who once was perhaps my favorite director. Nearing the end of it, I remember thinking that I would consider it an only slightly better than average film as a whole if not for the fact that it was so visually well done. I can't help thinking that PTA uses the crutch of the look of and acting in a film now. So many of his earlier films were all about his incredible scripts PLUS the visuals and acting.

The real kicker, though, was watching the extras. Guy ruined his own film with cuts. There was a really key dramatic element and he cut it out of the film. We were supposed to hear that the "second book" had a kind of legend about it, and learn later that it was a letdown to people. Tied to this, though, and even more importantly, we were supposed to wonder whether Quell was going to betray the master by doing something like stealing the second book. None of this made the cut, and in my mind this ruined the film. I was shocked that this was revealed in the extras as if it were some insignificant thing. Perhaps PTA thought it was; perhaps the inclusion was a kind of apology.

Another surprise in the extras was revealing that the "bromance" angle of the film was originally more extensive. There was supposed to be a whole montage (at least in the extras) that expounded on this and which was set to "Slow boat to china." As it was, the "Slow boat" scene in the end just seems to somewhat come out of nowhere. This seems more like the kind of thing that does not "test well" with audiences. Editing by focus group. Anyway, whoever made those editing decisions just butchered that film.