The Master (2012)

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Released 13-Mar-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Back Beyond (19:11)
Teaser Trailer-Teasers/Trailers (15:48)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 131:52
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:28) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Paul Thomas Anderson

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Joaquin Phoenix
Price Carson
Mike Howard
Sarah Shoshana David
Bruce Goodchild
Matt Hering
Dan Anderson
Andrew Koponen
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Jonny Greenwood

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, Yes, plenty of it!
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Don't come to this film expecting it to neatly resolve in the final act. Nor, for that matter, don't expect to dwell on a major complication in the plotline to drive the film to its conclusion. I'm sorry, for those of you who like your movies tied up neatly like a Christmas present; it may be better for you to head elsewhere. Yet, if you are prepared to give Writer-Director Paul Thomas Anderson's sixth feature film a second and perhaps a third viewing, you may just find something in this that you weren't looking for.

     You may be surprised to learn that this is Paul Thomas Anderson's first film in the last 5 years, since There Will Be Blood. And that film did quite well in terms of critical acclaim, especially for Daniel Day-Lewis. There Will Be Blood had a metacritic score of 92% (the average number given to reviews out of 100) which is the highest rating of all Paul Thomas Anderson's films. Like his cinematic influences in relation to movie making, Yasujiro Ozu, Max Ophüls and Stanley Kubrick, Anderson's six films all have a metascore (i.e. a critical rating standardised to a score out of a 100) around 80% and over. Anderson simply makes good, consistent and powerful films that leave an impact on their viewers. However, The Master differs slightly in that the ending will leave you questioning how it resolves all before it. To answer that, we need to approach this film in a slightly different way to previous films such as Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood.

     In the first instance, Anderson has stated in interviews that The Master is episodic, we get glimpses of scenes from the main characters' point-of-view, mainly Joaquin Phoenix's Freddie Quell and Philip Seymour Hoffman's Lancaster Dodd. So, naturally, the story does not flow in a progressive arc like most films. Secondly, the film thus doesn't follow the average three act structure which contains an orientation, complication and resolution. Rather, like Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, we need to delve further into each part of the movie to link it all together. Lastly, this is the first major film since Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet in 1996 to be shot in 65mm and projected in cinemas at 70mm. For this reason, Mihai Mălaimare, Jr shot the film rather than Robert Elswit, Anderson's cinematographer for his first five feature films.

     So how should we approach this film? After the first viewing, I think you'll agree that you've seen a well-made film that stands out from others, but reasoning why may not be so easy. With a metacritic score of 86%, The Master is the highest critically-praised film of 2012, yet still seasoned critics such as Roger Ebert were left wondering about its impact. Ebert called The Master, "Fabulously well-acted and crafted, but when I reach for it, my hand closes on air. It has rich material and isn't clear what it thinks about it. It has two performances of Oscar calibre, but do they connect?". Rex Reed blatantly criticised the episodic structure of the film in saying, "call The Master whatever you want, but lobotomised catatonia from what I call the New Hacks can never take the place of well-made narrative films about real people that tell profound stories for a broader and more sophisticated audience. Fads come and go, but as Walter Kerr used to say, 'I'll yell tripe whenever tripe is served'". Despite these common concerns about The Master, the film still topped critics polls for 2012 for Sight and Sound and The Village Voice magazines.

     If you would like some guidance on how to approach this film, read on. I suggest that you don't read this final paragraph until you've seen The Master for the first time. Then prior to the second viewing, go into it with a fresh approach. Just as 2001: A Space Odyssey has the same plot outline (i.e. complication and resolution) across four different stages of mankind's historical and technological development, likewise understand that The Master is not about Scientology, or about a traditional Father-Son or Mentor-Acolyte relationship where the one who learns from the other achieves a desired goal or moves on from his dependence on his mentor. Rather look on Lancaster Dodd and Freddie Quell as two different expressions of the same person. For if you look at the film this way, then you'll understand how both characters are their own Masters, both with an inclination towards sexual deviancy, alcoholism, violence and the need for independence and influence upon others around them. In this way, we can start to make sense of why The Master does not have a traditional complication/resolution plot structure.

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Transfer Quality


     As mentioned, The Master is the first film in 16 years to be shot in 65mm. Cinematographer Mihai Mălaimare Jr has stated that an 8k scan would be required to fully appreciate how beautiful this film looks. The only other film that I've come across that has that much resolution is Baraka. Not even the Blu-ray will do justice to how wonderfully shot this film is. Do yourself a favour then and catch it at a cinema that can project it in 70mm.

     The 65mm film footage, which constitutes 85% of the film, was slightly cropped from 2:20:1 (the same aspect ratio as Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey) to 1:85:1 for its theatrical premiere. It is presented on DVD at this aspect ratio, 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions.

     With such a high resolution, The Master also benefited from not being edited digitally, so it retains its sharpness throughout. This can be seen in Anderson's many pick-up shots to start new scenes which highlight the sky or the ocean or natural features. This is an obvious homage to Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, who would include scenes like this to slow down the pacing of his films to allow his audiences to think and reflect on each scene viewed.

     The colour scheme is bright and saturated at times, yet distinct and vibrant.

     The average bitrate of the movie is 6.44 m/b per sec, which is average for a DVD transfer. 15% of The Master was shot in 35mm to give it a 'dirtier look', to emphasise the period in which the film is set in the early 1950s. There is also a slight grain that is inherent with films shot on analog film stock.

     Subtitles are included in English only.

     The RSDL change at 66:28 is noticeable, although it occurs during a scene transition.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts



     Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood returned to complete the score for The Master, having previously scored There Will Be Blood. Greenwood's compositions support the film's dialogue, using music and sound effects to provide an aural expression on Freddie Quell's moods and thoughts in scenes where Joaquin Phoenix's character is silent, reflective and conflicted.

    The main audio track is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 448 kbps. There is also an English Descriptive Audio track for listeners who are hard of hearing and a Dolby Digital Stereo track. These tracks are both English Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks encoded at 192 kbps.

    Dialogue is clear and synchronised throughout.

    Greenwood provided 11 original compositions for the music soundtrack and included 4 recordings from the 1940s and 1950s, Ella Fitzgerald's Get Thee Behind Me Satan, Jo Stafford's No Other Love, Helen Forrest's Changing Partners and the popular 1940s hit by The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (with Anyone Else but Me) which was sung by Madisen Beaty (who played Doris Solstad, the girl who Freddie left behind).

     Surround Channel Usage contains mostly ambience and low atmospheric effects in the rear speakers. Jonny Greenwood's eclectic score contains distinct separation and fidelity. Together with the scattered sound effects, the music gives the film an uncomfortable and undulating feel.

    The Subwoofer supports the subtle environmental ambiance, with occasional flourishes to emphasise moments such as when the two main characters, Lancaster and Freddie lose their temper and display violent actions on-screen.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


"Back Beyond": Outtakes, Additional Scenes; Music by Jonny Greenwood (19:11)

     These are a collection of extended and deleted scenes set to a background score by Jonny Greenwood. The final sequence includes outtakes of the smoking scene between Hoffman and Phoenix and is full of laughs. After viewing this extra, you can greater appreciate the editing of the film as these extra scenes do not add anything to theatrical final cut of The Master.

Teasers/Trailers (15:48)

     You have an option to play all the teasers and the theatrical trailer or to view them separately. Some of the teasers contain footage not included in the final cut. The teasers are labelled: Was There a Fight? (1:42), Hopelessly Inquisitive (1:28), She Wrote Me a Letter (1:50), I Lost My Ship (0:59), Tell Me What You See (1:19), Gone To China (0:46), Last One/Thank You (4:21), Theatrical Trailer (2:20) and Man Is Not An Animal (1:03). Incidentally, some of these teasers/trailers can be found on the main website of the film. Some were made to advertise watching the film projected at 70mm in various theatres across major American cities.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 United States version contains an 8-minute behind-the-scenes extra, 'Unguided Message' and the 1946 John Huston documentary on World War II veterans, 'Let There Be Light' which are not contained on the Region 4 Australian release.


     The Master will leave you questioning what you've seen on first viewing. Margaret Pomeranz similarly stated on her spiel on the film on the show, At The Movies, "The power of the film comes from the relationship between the two men, one charming and capricious, the other surly and yet strangely, obsessively devoted. The hints of father/son relationships hover over most of Anderson's films. The performances are extraordinary, the writer/director completely in control of his material. It is an impressive work. More than impressive, it's disturbing, I felt quite shattered coming out of the screening whether because of the sheer artistry on display or whether because of the themes explored, I couldn't say." If you do get to see this wonderfully-made film, give it the respect it deserves by partaking in multiple viewings.

Ratings (out of 5)


© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Monday, March 11, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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