THE MASTER directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (USA, 2012)
I was prematurely dismissive about There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous movie. I only really appreciated its quality and power on second viewing. I strongly suspect that the same will be true of The Master and certainly feel inclined to reserve final judgement until I’ve had chance to see it again.
The film’s opacity and lack of plot mean that there is a temptation to dismiss the universal critical acclaim it has garnered as hype and it is clear that,beyond the smart press, it has already divided ‘ordinary’ punters. It has been branded as a Marmite movie, something you’ll either love or hate.
If asked the question ‘what is it about?’, the most typical reply would be that it is a veiled study/satire of the birth of scientology but this seems a bit reductive to me. As it raises philosophical issues about the nature of madness, rationalism and existentialism, dismissing it on the grounds that there’s no narrative arc seems to me to be a superficial reading. Continue reading
I have now seen all nine films nominated for best picture at this year’s Oscars. You can read individual reviews of each of them on this blog and, ahead of the forthcoming razzmatazz of the awards ceremony, here are my final thoughts on the contenders.
The three best movies are by directors who understand the visual grammar of cinema to the point that images speak louder than words.
In the case of The Artist there is no dialogue at all, unless you count the title cards. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is so memorable because of the amazing production design that brings the automaton and Parisian station to life. This supports the pseudo-religious view expressed by the young protagonist that we are all part of one enormous mechanism .
Both movies pay affectionate homage to silent movies in recognition of cinema as a painterly and visionary medium.
The other truly great film on the short list is Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life,. It too is visually stunning but the lack of linear narrative makes it the type of movie that wins more supporters at artier festivals like Venice, Berlin or Cannes.
I personally expect The Artist to triumph but would like to see Scorsese or Malick win as best director. Continue reading
I had fun compiling a list of best British cult movies but putting together a year’s best of list is a taller order as I don’t actually go the cinema that much these days.
I tend to be a little over dependent on DVDs and downloads which often means I miss stuff or see things late.
I just about managed to put together a top ten, however, although keen-eyed buffs will note that some of these were actually released in 2010.
1. Tree of Life.
Terrence Malick’s epic was panned by some and booed at Cannes but for ambition, scope and sheer beauty movie experiences don’t come much better than this. Continue reading
I finally got to see Terrence Malick’s Tree Of Life and it was well worth waiting for. I only wish I could have seen it on a big Imax screen rather than on my humble laptop. It was still awesome in the true sense of the word.
It’s so complex and multi-faceted that any summary of the plot or speculation about meaning will fail to do it justice. It is a movie to be experienced rather than deconstructed. Still, I can’t resist putting down some of my impressions.
The voiceover by Mrs O’Brien (Jessica Chastain) at the start affirms that people must choose the way of nature or a way of grace.
Her stern husband, played brilliantly by Brad Pitt, seems to represent to harshest aspects of the path of nature. He’s a man who wants to be in control of his own destiny and rules over his three sons with a hard patriarchal force. His belief that you have to be cruel to be kind and often veers off course so that at times he is also cruel to be cruel. Inevitably, his oldest child Jack (Hunter McCracken/Sean Penn) rebels against this authority.
The mother is the nurturing figure (grace). In one scene, while playing with the boys outdoors she looks to the sky and says “that’s where God lives”. This simple trust that the family are being watched over by a benevolent being and governed by an unseen hand is one that is implicitly or explicitly questioned in the movie. Continue reading