The Master (2012 film)  

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The Master is a 2012 American drama film written, directed, and co-produced by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. It tells the story of Freddie Quell (Phoenix), a World War II veteran struggling to adjust to a post-war society who meets Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman), a leader of a religious movement known as "The Cause," who sees something in Quell and accepts him into the movement. Freddie takes a liking to "The Cause" and begins traveling with Dodd along the East Coast to spread the teachings.

It was produced by Annapurna Pictures and Ghoulardi Film Company and distributed by The Weinstein Company. With a budget of $30 million, filming began in June 2011. Cinematography was provided by Mihai M─âlaimare, Jr., Jonny Greenwood composed the score, and Leslie Jones and Peter McNulty worked as editors. The film was partly inspired by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, but also used early drafts of There Will Be Blood, stories Jason Robards had told Anderson about his drinking days in the Navy during the war, and the life story of John Steinbeck. The Master was shot almost entirely on 65 mm film stock, making it the first feature length fiction film to be shot and released in 70 mm since Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet in 1996.

Initially the film was set up with Universal but fell through due to problems with the scripts and the budget. It was first publicly shown on August 3, 2012, at the American Cinematheque in 70 mm and screened in various other cities in the format prior to its official premiere. The film officially premiered on September 1, 2012, at the Venice Film Festival where it won the FIPRESCI Award for Best Film. The Master was released on September 14, 2012, in the United States to critical acclaim. The film received three Academy Award nominations for Best Actor for Phoenix, Best Supporting Actor for Hoffman, and Best Supporting Actress for Adams.


Freddie Quell is a sex-obsessed alcoholic World War II veteran from Lynn, Massachusetts struggling to adjust to a post-war society. He becomes a portrait photographer at a department store but is soon fired for getting into a drunken fight with a customer. Freddie then finds work at a Salinas, California cabbage farm, but his moonshine poisons one of the elderly migrant workers and he is chased off.

One night, intoxicated, Freddie finds himself in San Francisco and stows away on the yacht of a follower of Lancaster Dodd, the leader of a philosophical movement known as "The Cause." When he is discovered, Dodd describes Freddie as "aberrated" and invites him to stay and attend the marriage of Dodd's daughter, Elizabeth, as long as he will make more of his mysterious brew (made with paint thinner), which Dodd has developed a taste for. Dodd begins an exercise with Freddie called Processing, a flurry of disturbing psychological questioning aimed at conquering Freddie's past traumas. Freddie reveals that his father has died, his mother is institutionalized, he had an incestuous relationship with his aunt, and he abandoned the love of his life, a young girl named Doris, who wrote to him while he was at war. Freddie is enthralled by Dodd, who doesn't flinch from his abject revelations, and Dodd sees something in Freddie. Freddie travels with Dodd's family as they spread the teachings of "The Cause" along the East Coast, staying as guests in the homes of various women drawn to "The Cause." But Freddie's violent and erratic behavior has not improved, nor has his alcoholism. At a dinner party in New York, a man questions Dodd's methods and statements, and Freddie pursues him to his apartment and assaults him that night.

Other members of "The Cause" begin to worry about Freddie's behavior, despite Dodd's attachment to him. While they are guests of an acolyte in Philadelphia, Dodd's wife Peggy tells Freddie that he must quit drinking if he wishes to stay, to which he agrees. However, he has no true intention of keeping his promise. Freddie criticizes Dodd's son Val for disregarding his father's teachings, but Val tells Freddie that Dodd is making things up as he goes along. Dodd is arrested for practicing medicine without proper qualifications, after one of his former hostesses has a change of heart; Freddie is also arrested for assaulting the police officers. In the jail cell adjacent to Dodd, Freddie smashes the toilet and batters himself against the bars and his bunk, while Dodd tries to calm him. But Freddie erupts in a tirade, questioning everything that Dodd has taught him and accuses him of being a fake. The two men trade insults until Dodd turns his back. They reconcile upon their release, but members of "The Cause" have become more suspicious and fearful of Freddie, believing him to be insane or an undercover agent.

Freddie submits to additional exercises with "The Cause" but becomes increasingly angry and frustrated with his lack of results and repetition of the exercises. Eventually he passes the tests, and they travel to Phoenix, Arizona, for the release of Dodd's latest book. But when Dodd's publisher criticizes the quality of the book and its teachings Freddie assaults him. Helen Sullivan, their Philadelphia hostess, confronts Dodd in the lecture hall for suggesting that members should now "imagine" rather than "recall" the experiences of "other lives" in his new book, and he also loses his temper. During another exercise, in which Freddie is supposed to ride a motorcycle at high speed through the desert towards an object in the distance and then return, he instead abandons the group, riding the motorcycle out of the desert, and leaving Dodd and "The Cause" behind. He goes home to rekindle his relationship with Doris but learns from her mother that she has married and started a family in Alabama in the seven years since he last saw her. Freddie leaves disappointed, but he seems pleased that Doris has made a happy life for herself.

While sleeping in a movie theater, Freddie receives a phone call from Dodd who is now residing in England, Dodd asks Freddie to travel to England and join him. Freddie then travels across the Atlantic to reunite with Dodd. When Freddie arrives, he discovers Val is still in his father's employ and that Elizabeth has been expelled from the movement. Dodd seems happy to see him but Peggy tells him that Freddie has no intention of improving his life and that he should no longer be involved in "The Cause." Dodd finally realizes that his wife is correct and he gives Freddie an ultimatum: stay with "The Cause" and devote himself to it for the rest of his life or leave and never return. Dodd then serenades Freddie with the song Slow Boat to China. Freddie leaves and picks up a woman at a local pub, then repeats questions from his first Processing session with Dodd as he is having sex with her. Finally he appears to curl up on a beach next to the crude sand sculpture of a woman the sailors created during the war.

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