TIFF 2012 Video Blog: Talking 'The Master' & 'Place Beyond the Pines'
by Alex Billington
September 10, 2012
"But above all I am a man. Hopelessly inquisitive man, just like you." In a year where we have new films by Paul Thomas Anderson, Derek Cianfrance, Steven Spielberg, even Terrence Malick, it's tough to get into a discussion about the best of the best. In fact, it's honestly hard to sit down and process some of these films, especially considering how layered, complex and "heavy" they are. Especially these two in particular, PTA's The Master and Cianfrance's The Place Beyond the Pines, which premiered at TIFF 2012 this past weekend. I caught both films (and reviewed Pines in text) but wanted to actually chat about them in person.
The most invigorating discussions I have about film are with my colleagues, film loving friends, and other movie bloggers who I often wait in line with and see throughout the day at film festivals. Upon emerging from seeing both The Master and The Place Beyond the Pines, as back-to-back screenings on Friday night, I immediately wanted to discuss both. I've been struggling to gather my thoughts on PTA's The Master, which is one of this year's most anticipated and one everyone wants to hear about, so I met up with my Canadian friend Matt Rorabeck of the site Movie Knight to talk about both of these. Here's our spoiler-free chat:
PTA's The Master, which I saw projected in 70mm, is unquestionably a technical masterpiece in many ways. Visually it's phenomenal, the cinematography (is to die for), the score, the sound, the production design, all awards worthy. The performances as well, which I think may be the single greatest aspect of the film, are outstanding. I want Joaquin Phoenix to win an Oscar - he deserves it, he takes acting to another level playing drifter Freddie. Philip Seymour Hoffman is great too, and Amy Adams pushes herself as well. But beyond that, I didn't get much out the film. The first half is great, but PTA let's all the story threads go in the second half and it unwinds into a couple of odd scenes without so much of a conclusion as just an end.
The one thing almost everyone will say after seeing The Master is that they need to see it again. The more I think about it, that's kind of a big criticism, that he leaves so much for us to guess or figure out on our own, that it's hard to interpret. That said, I was still fascinated by the first half, even though in all honesty the "Scientology" discussion doesn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things. The review that I found that I think sums up my divisive, confused thoughts perfectly was written by Jason Gorber on Twitch, where he states: "The Master is brilliant and/or confounding and/or terrible… It may be a masterpiece, and/or it may be empty of content masked by strong moments of acting prowess and visual flare." Exactly. But which is it?
As always, there's nothing like firing up a camera and recording our thoughts, which is exactly what Matt and I did. I hope you found our discussion interesting. At the very least, I hope we've encourage everyone to seek out and see these films themselves. While I can't say I loved The Master (and prefer TWBB and many of PTA's past films) it's a must see for all of PTA's technical elements and the performances. Same can be said for The Place Beyond the Pines (my full review). We'll continue to bring you more coverage from TIFF.