1) "If you figure out a way to live without a master, any master, be sure to let the rest of us know, for you would be the first in the history of the world." --Lancaster Dodd
2) "And I refused to be a fool dancing on the strings held by all those big shots. I don't apologize, that's my life. But I thought that when it was your time, that you would be the one to hold the strings." --Don Corleone in The Godfather
3) "The choice was put to them whether they would like to be kings or king's couriers. Like children they all wanted to be couriers. So now there are a great many couriers, they post through the world, and, as there are no kings left, shout to each other their meaningless and obsolete messages." --Franz Kafka
4) "The animal snatches the whip from its master and whips itself so as to become the master, and does not know that all this is only a fantasy caused by a new knot in the master's whip lash." --Kafka
5) While in Columbia, SC, I bought a copy of Hanna Rosin's The End of Men, which proves that recent economic and social shifts have left many men powerless, adrift, and inconsequential. Soon after, I went to see The Master at the Nickelodeon theater where, almost immediately, one sees Freddie Quill humping a sand sculpture in the shape of a woman's body on the beach. "A case in point," I thought.
6) With its expressionistic, The Tree of Life gorgeous style, the beauty of the individual shot in The Master seems more important than story coherence. I got the impression that the film's scenes could be rearranged and it wouldn't especially matter, especially given the static nature of Freddie's and Lancaster's relationship. The story of The Master suffers from the same crisis of authority that the movie depicts.
7) My favorite thing about The Master is its title, and its implicit question--where does one find true mastery? The movie concerns one man's desire for an authority figure to give him guidance, but Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) implies that all authority is bogus, all variations on the American confidence man who thrives on giving people delusional reasons to feel important. In comparison to the fundamental business savvy of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, Lancaster Dodd is a fraud, a charlatan peddling cancer cures, time travel, and hypnotic release. Who is the master in this film? The word "master" also suggests self-control, restraint, but Freddie has very little of that. The Master depicts a crisis in authority that attains a near-universal condition. With much of the storyline centered around Dodd, The Master struggles with its core of built-in bs. Yet, with its many indeterminacies, narrative breaks, and discontinuities, the film invites analysis and seeks converts just as Dodd does. The critic can feel release and joy in just giving in the film's rhythms, images, and evocative dialogue.
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