“The Master” screened at Chicago’s Music Box Theater last night in 70mm, the format that director Paul Thomas Anderson intended it to be seen in, and those lucky enough to snag a ticket to the second public screening of the movie were duly impressed. We’ve pulled together a handful of reviews that were published following the screening, and the general responses praised Anderson’s direction as well as the performances given by stars Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Still, there were some complaints with the run time and the ending, and even “The Master’s” biggest fans said the film had its faults.
But the real star of last night’s screening was the 70mm format. Every technical element of the movie — from its gorgeous cinematography to Johnny Greenwood’s fantastic score — were reportedly enhanced by the viewing experience, meaning that cinephiles should deem it necessary to see “The Master” in that format.
The Playlist writer Charlie Schmidlin was present at the screening and wrote in his review that every element of the movie, from the acting to the period setting to the score, was a “success” for Anderson. But above that, he said the 70mm was what brought the film up to a whole new level.
“If there was any doubt Anderson had about shooting in 70mm, the opening shot of crystal-clear, vibrant blue sea should dismiss those thoughts entirely,” Schmidlin writes. “There is an immediate and immersive quality to the image here, and combined with the film’s sustained atmosphere of dread, it is altogether an experience at which to marvel.”
Patrick McGavin at Movieline found “The Master’s” strength to be in its visuals, much like Anderson’s previous movie, “There Will Be Blood.”
“Visually, the movie is a marvel of precise and lyrical imagery. One sustained single-take tracking shot follows a young woman as she models a fur jacket. In another vivid, sexually hallucinatory moment, Freddie imagines all the women surrounding Lancaster during a musical number naked,” he writes. “In the first of several tense encounters between the two men that functions as Lancaster’s inquisition of the tremulous Freddie, Anderson unflinchingly keeps the camera tight on their faces. The scene plays out in one long, unbroken take, and the effect is hypnotic.”
However, he then writes that “the second half [of the film] is less audacious and more problematic.”
After a screening in Los Angeles earlier in the month, Thompson on Hollywood writer Beth Hanna praised Hoffman’s performance as being the standout in the movie.
“Hoffman goes big with this role. His Master is intensely focused, almost cartoonishly charismatic and seductive. But as he brings Freddie into the fold of his teachings, which include pre-birth recordings, past lives and strict emotional self-control, Master proves to be a simmering powder-keg,” she writes. “When he snaps, it jolts you out of your seat. (This nicely matches Johnny Greenwood’s percussive, anxiety-inducing score.) Freddie and Master have a symbiotic relationship, where Freddie can feel anchored by Master’s stranglehold, and Master can ward off his paranoia (outside groups are increasingly criticizing his methods) by focusing his efforts on such an inscrutable weakling.”
“The Master” hits theaters in limited release on September 14.