Tag Archives: Actor

The Master… Both Mystifying and Masterful

20 Nov

The Plot: A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future – until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.

The Good: The Master is one of those films which is visually breathtaking and the performances are almost certainly going to be up there, riding the awards season wave. Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood) explores the subject of post war veteran lifestyle, adjusting back into society and once again being part of the old world they left behind.

Freddie Quill (Joaquin Phoenix) represents the everyman in this situation. Years at sea during WWII has forced him to leave his sweetheart, become mentally and physically damaged by the world war he has become a significant yet insignificant part of, and ultimately a user of home made alcoholic concoctions to numb the pain and suffering he has endured throughout his life as the world begins once again. Phoenix’s unprecedented performance as this character, demonstrates his immense skill and power as an actor as he oozes raw emotion, aggression and vulnerability.

His awakening as a new man begins when he has a chance meeting with The Master (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a charismatic leader of a new belief system called The Cause, which welcomes Quills’ lost soul into its warm embrace. It is here that you see some of the best performances of the year. The energy and charisma between these two characters through long intrusive close up shots defines their status as two of the most talented and important actors working in film today. Whatever one thought of the film as a whole you cannot deny these stunning performances. One particular scene shows both Quill and The Master holed up side by side in two jail cells, and in this particular take Phoenix’s Raging Bull persona tips the scale against Hoffman’s calm and collective Master in this scene where Phoenix literally rips the cell and (real) porcelain toilet apart.

Anderson shows off these performances beautifully in the use of 65mm film (if you can catch showings in this medium we really suggest that you take this opportunity to embrace it) the colouring of every part of this film is beautiful, from the waves of the sea through to the inside of a 1950’s department store, it is lush, beautifully effective (making Mad Men feel like a tacky 1990’s version of this era) and transports you to a golden time of film making. His daring choice to capture intense emotional scenes with extreme close ups and long running takes makes the audience unable to look away and the actors unable to hide, and it is this that the genius of this film unfolds.

The score also brilliantly accompanies this film. Johnny Greenwoods instrumental accompaniment helps draw in the audience and allows you to really feel the overpowering crashing of the waves and traditional feeling of impending doom at the right moments, a stroke of genius in itself and something that we took away as one of the many highlights of this film.

The Bad: Despite all the visuals and performances being some of the best of the year, the narrative storyline seems so cryptic (at least in the first sitting) that one cannot help but feel that Paul Thomas Anderson is the only person who really knows what is going on in this film. This isn’t wholly unsurprising given his past work, but some audiences may find this challenging and self indulgent.

A tad too long by about a good twenty minutes also wares thin and for this reason alone may reduce some viewers to sitting on the fence about how much they truly enjoyed this film. It may end up that this may be the case of too much of a good thing, and result in inevitable frustration. Equally as frustrating, is the underuse of the phenomenal talent that is Amy Adams. In yet another deeply diverse role, Adam provides the stern, determined force behind the master, overshadowed by him in public due to her gender and the place and portrayal of women during that time – we only wish we could see her that little more throughout.

The Ugly Truth: In truth, this film took us two weeks to review. The reason being because upon first watch there is so much to take in, you’re not sure if you think it’s a masterpiece or the most arrogant film of the year. One thing is for sure, The Master had the effect where we just couldn’t stop thinking about it, trying to analyse its own inner psyche and messages it was trying to give us as audience members. The conclusion, is that the more we thought about it, the more we loved it, and with this in mind how could it not be anything other than all round pure genius. The Master is worth a second, third and even a forth viewing but whatever you do, make sure you go and see it.

Rust and Bone – deserving of all the hype? You’ll have to make your mind up

7 Nov

The Plot:

Put in charge of his young son, Ali leaves Belgium for Antibes to live with his sister and her husband as a family. Ali’s bond with Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, grows deeper after Stephanie suffers a horrible accident.

The Good:

Rust and Bone is a slow moving tale of self discovery for two people, Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) and Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts). The film tackles the very plausible notion of two people from different paths, meeting and becoming friends who become lovers. It a common story but adding  the intense themes of coping with disability is what helped the film take top prize at this year’s London Film festival.

The film’s main strength  lies in Marion Cotillard’s performance, with  her vulnerability and fragility displayed in award winning fashion throughout. The Oscar winning actress expertly pulls on audiences heartstrings as her character comes to terms with her traumatic accident and slowly allows herself to become emotionally dependent on her unlikely new friend. It’s easy for audiences to empathise with Stephanie’s growing need for Ali as she searches for someone who treats her as an equal not an invalid.

Matthias Schoenaerts proves a good sparing partner for  Cotillard in this film and his matter of fact attitude provides an interesting contrast. Scenes where it is just the two of them manage to bring home a sense of realism and unexpected but welcome humour in the situation that is presented.

The cinematography must also be applauded. In some of the beach scenes, you can almost feel the summer breeze as you watch it and forget about the blistery UK Autumn outside. It also allows the audience to feel part of this world, not just a spectator.

The Bad:

Rust an Bone is not without it’s flaws. There are too many elements which makes the overall plot messy and difficult to understand. The struggles of fatherhood, love and the aftermath of a tragic accident  are all strong topics in themselves but it’s a tough challenge to combine them. Characters are wasted, and story elements seem carelessly placed in order to give an excuse for the narrative to move in implausible directions.

It would have been interesting to focus more on Stephanie’s  battle to overcome her fears and work with killer whales again. But this is only explored briefly as the film jumps between different stories. It’s jarring and frustrating as key parts of the film simply aren’t explored in enough depth.

The Ugly Truth:

The film’s strong performances, particularly the brilliant Marion Cotillard, connect well with an audience and make the most of a disjointed narrative. A clunky and confused storyline poses a few too many problems to allow the film to ever be totally enjoyable and may leave some wondering exactly where the film was supposed to be going in the first place.

Written for: Red Carpet News TV