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I can't remember the last movie that I've puzzled over without actually liking it the way I have with this one. The fact that -- as you say -- large pieces of the story seem to take place off screen make it especially troubling.

I also keep coming back to the question of why Dodd seems so drawn to Quell. Part of me thinks that he's Dodd's ultimate challenge. Dodd has created this movement based on the idea that humans are more than their base urges, and along comes this guy who seems to refute that notion.

But that only works if you believe that Dodd believes in the Cause, and the movie seems to argue otherwise.


Anderson always delivers great performances and good scenes. He struggles (or is less interested) in delivering a coherent, complete narrative. There Will Be Blood is his most complete, I'd say. Magnolia has fantastic performances and memorable scenes, but it's also slightly bloated and uneven. Still, its merits far outweigh its flaws, and its failures are mostly due to ambition (and the occasional self-indulgence). The Master works very well as a character study, and it's never boring - Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely riveting throughout, Hoffman is stellar, too, and Amy Adams is always worthwhile. I don't see some meta-game in The Master, just Anderson's usual approach, perhaps accentuated by the material itself, in that the two leads both start as mysteries and Anderson wants to end with at least some of that. (Additionally, many of the small touches and scenes are directly referencing moments in L. Ron Hubbard's life.) As with many of Anderson's other films, I found The Master to be flawed and somewhat unsatisfying but still very much worth a look.

As to CalmTomb's point, I think Quell may be both a challenge to Dodd's ego and a stroking of it. Quell is quite devoted and trusting (if occasionally defiant). Dodd treats him a bit like a pet. Plus - I'll talk around this to avoid spoilers - the slow boat scene made me wonder about other dynamics at work.

M George Stevenson

Quell was on the Missouri -- he wears gear with its insignia and refers to its guns at one point. I think that beginning with the crew of the ship where the surrender was signed is a hint at what's at work in the film, which I agree demands a second viewing not so much for added enjoyment, but to reinforce impressions one hopes will turn into arguments. The idea of surrender is so key to so many religions, and esp. to Dodd's idea of where his followers should begin (the editor Quell beats up says that Dodd is a true mystic, i.e., someone who gives themselves over to wisdom that comes from some mysterious outside, rather than a true philosopher or theologian), that it has to be part of what Anderson is getting at (and getting to: the final scene depicts Quell's getting inside, surrendering to the physical flesh he's been so profanely obsessed with with what seemed to be to be healing results).

That's what I got for now -- though I also agree that the "Slow Boat to China" scene hinted at other fleshly dynamics -- and hope this thread can help us tease out more of WTF was going on.

Dave Sikula

Oh, Lance, Lance, Lance ...

If ever a movie was The Emperor's New Clothes, it's this one. Just because a movie is obscure and obtuse doesn't make it good.

Phoenix may give the worst performance I've ever seen in a major motion picture. Mumbling and "behaving" is not acting; it's self-indulgent garbage.

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