|Director:||Paul Thomas Anderson|
|09.21.12||Alamo Ritz|| Noon screening at the Ritz in 70mm. If i'm completely hoenst with myself, I must admit that I've been kind of afraid to see this. I had an opportunity to buy tickets when PTA was here with the early screening and didn't go because I'd have to fight traffic to get downtown and it would be a nightmare to park and I wouldn't be able to stand in line long enough to get a decent seat. Those reasons, while valid in my opinion, were minor compared to the much larger one that I dared not even speak: I was afraid that it would be bad.|
I could not have been more excited to see Punch-Drunk Love. I was on a vacation up to philly to visit a trio of friends and all one guy wanted to do was see Punch-Drunk Love and play GTA: Vice City. It was a great trip except for the fact that we both kind of stumbled out of the theater and nodded to each other that it was good over and over without really talking about anything specific. Months passed and I felt like I needed to keep my cold reaction to the film a secret because everyone else loved.... I don't know I guess they loved the lens flares and occasional color swatches? It wasn't until years later hen I revisited the film in an honest effort to re-evaluate it and found that my opinion had not changed at all. I didn't like it and that's all there was.
SO. I had this cloud looming. This fearful bias. Why? Well... I was lucky enough to see an early screening of There Will Be Blood at Fantastic Fest several years ago. It was deep and enigmatic and mature and all those things but i immediately felt strong feelings toward it, so much so that I opted to not see the final film of the fest because I wanted to revel in the afterglow of seeing a great movie. Word of mouth spread like wildfire on that one and nobody was afraid to praise it to the heavens. With The Master, I didn't hear shit.
"Mesmerizing" was the most I got out of people who are normally practically drooling to be the first to tell everyone how awesome something is. I took this as a bad sign. Hence the cloud.
But when there was no good noontime movie today and Jarrette mentioned seeing The Master at noon I thought it was a great idea. I'd force myself to see it and hopefully be pleasantly surprised.
A few things. The Alamo made a big deal about installing 70mm projectors in the big Ritz house a few months ago. They've been showing a series of 70 prints like Ghostbusters and Raiders (which I'm pretty sure are blow-ups except maybe for the effects shots) leading up to The Master's release. It's the only place in town showing it in 70. Everybody who saw it early, perhaps as a replacement for talking about the content of the film, proclaimed that everybody HAD to see it this way and that it was spectacular. I really hate to say this but I didn't see anything. The Ritz screen isn't big enough to really capitalize on the larger resolution so to me it just looked like digital with a little flickering. I could kind of imagine, like I bet the stuff on the navy ship would look good on the IMAX or even Paramount screens, but at the Ritz looked almost exactly the same. Perhaps a smidge sharper than 35 but really... it was nothing like Dark Knight at Imax or Lawrence of Arabia at the Paramount.
I guess I finally have to talk about the movie now. It's very much a sister film to Blood. Same treatment with the score and powerhouse performances and kind of obtuse scene cuts constructed to where you have to think out and piece together what you're seeing a little bit. It feels like it distances a bit too far for me. There's not enough continuity to make me comfortable enough with the plot to emotionalize the characters. They seemed like either monologue scenes destined for acting classes or short-film vignettes adfrift in time. Phoenix's character feels a little arbitrarily weird to me. I liked the cult stuff but felt we didn't follow it long enough to see any real outcome or development. I guess PTA used the Freddy Quell character as an entrance point into the culty religion as a way to say "who would be the person who actually believes this stuff?" but his focus gets a little loose and you end up spending either too much or too little time with Phoenix and Hoffman so niether one is really the star or support. It just a weird mix.
It almost feels like a Terry Malick movie in that I can easily see a more typical narrative version of this film on the cutting room floor somewhere, cut into "poetry" for the sake of release.
whew. so There we have it. I didn't hate it but didn't immediately love it either. I'm still in a bit of a toss up. It's definitely a well-made film, I'm just not sure if it's my cup of tea.