Tag Archives: Philip Seymour Hoffman

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.

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BFI London Film Festival – Two doses of Gorgeous George – The Ides of March and The Decendents

21 Oct

I would have been annoyed if George Clooney did a John C Reilly and didn’t turn up to a festival which showcased not one but two

of his films, but luckily he didn’t disappoint. In fact, he over delivered. Having rushed from the screening of  the Clooney directed film The Ides of March to the press conference, I was so happy to find we weren’t only having a press conference with the man himself but also the incredibly talented Philip Seymour Hoffman and Evan Rachel Wood. However, I seem to have been the only member of the press attending who noticed that this Oscar winner and Indie darling were also in the room as the rest of the audience seemed (if they managed to get a question in – which I unfortunately did not get the chance to) to only be able to direct their questions to Gorgeous George. One particularly cringe moment was (apart from the double question asking George’s view on the Irish upcoming elections – please we’re here to talk film!!) when a member of the press clearly forgot the other actors names and addressed these Hollywood heavyweights as ‘members of the panel’ As Steve McQueen put it – SHAME!! These actions mirrored those in the film 360 and had an effect on the rest of us as Philip Seymour Hoffman was so annoyed that he was hardly addressed in this press conference that he flew in especially for, that he refused to do any press on the red carpet later that evening – well done journo!

Anyway – Back to the films, lets start with the big one – The Ides of March

The Ides of March

A political thriller – not something that I would normally be desperate to see in the cinema – more of a DVD movie for me. However I have to say that this film is going to be a keeper, I’m glad I saw it on the big screen as I could watch it intently without distraction and it’s probably a type of film with the ‘stay appeal’ which means its most likely going to end up on people’s DVD shelves for years to come as a ‘go-to’ movie. I really enjoyed this, lead by the sickening talented Ryan Gosling, the awards buzz which surrounds this film is very much earned. Its smart, sassy, intelligent and has a brilliant level of humour which comes just at the right time to break up scenes containing strong dramatic tension. Its cast is a goldmine of talent: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, Paul Giamatti and Marisa Tomei – you know you’re onto a winner when you’ve got them on board.

The film looks at the inner working of a campaign. The media minds and the politics behind the politics – is nice guy Mike Morris (Clooney) really that nice? Can Gosling be bought out by the opposing side? And what does loyalty in this situation really mean. It’s a game of chess expertly directed by Clooney (who sees his twilight years behind the camera rather in front) who has offered to the table a feast of top class acting, engaging dialogue and a story full of game players and no winners. It for me brings the resurgence of great political films back to the silver screen – proving that we may have had a thirty year gap of missing good films of this subject, but with a film like The Ides of March, it was most definitely worth the wait.

The Descendents

I like Hawaii. I like the idea of it, that it represents happiness and people throwing their cares away as they play lazy on the beach as the sun shines brightly above them. As we see from Alexander Payne’s (About Schmidt, Sideways) offering, he immediately focuses on the non tourist/commercial view of Hawaii and what its like to be living there – in the real world. This glimpse is not the main focus, in fact this story is one of family George Clooney’s character’s family, and the few days they take to come to terms with the untimely death of his wife following a boating accident. I think this film will divide audiences depending on your own personal experiences with grief, and handling such situations.

Although I enjoyed the film – it has some brilliant humour which will get you laughing till you cry – having gone through quite a similar situation in my own life, I found the characters slightly ridiculous, farcical and unemotional. Next to me in the cinema was my colleague Rosanna, who also went through similar circumstances, but unlike myself, dealt with her situation in the same manner as the family in the film, so found it hilarious and incredibly touching and moving. Two very different opinions, neither of which criticised the mechanics of the film, its well written, clever, well cast and entertaining. The content however may leave audiences divided in terms of how they view the story and how sympathetic they feel towards the characters and situation.

So there you have it folks – two very different films which will appeal to two very different audiences. Both very much worth a watch and proving that at the ‘tender age’ of 5o, Mr Clooney both on and off-screen still has the charisma and charm to keep him at the top of his game for many years to come.