The Master

The Master ★★★★½

“If you figure a way to live without serving a master, any master, then let the rest of us know, will you? For you’d be the first person in the history of the world.”

I’ve thought about this quote constantly for 8 years now. Saw this movie in 70mm at an Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, during college at my most “young adult trying to understand film as much as everybody around him.” I walked away with nothing more than “pretty movie! great acting. guess it’s about Scientology, which rocks, because i know that is bad” but something about it stuck with me. PTA’s movies have an effect on me where I walk away thinking about them intensely but not fully grasping the perfect subtext, and spend the rest of my life telling myself I should rewatch them. This is the first one I’ve rewatched, and on a second viewing the subtext is so clear it’s just text!

It’s a love story, between a master searching for purpose and control and a man searching for stability. And sure, it’s a movie about Scientology in only the most technical sense that yes that’s probably what PTA studied to have a loose foundation for The Cause, but it’s really about the feelings that drive people to any purpose-giving organization like Scientology, both from the top down and the bottom. They don’t focus on the money aspect of The Cause or call it an outright scam because it’s not as simple as that– Lancaster believes what he’s doing, because he needs it just as much as the people do. Significance is his master, as much as alcohol and sex and masculinity in general are Freddie’s. He needs everybody to think he’s the greatest, the quote-unquote Fantastic Mr. Lancaster Dodd. And if people aren't knocked out and dazzled and slightly intimidated by him, he doesn’t feel good about himself. He finds this significance in the only man who’s been able to give him a contemptuous, challenging, and hotheaded love, which is very funny because it’s a similar dynamic that we see in Phantom Thread, just less explicably defined. PTA loves a difficult love story! And so do I. 😊

I miss Philip Seymour Hoffman so much. I just can’t think of someone as alluring and immensely talented as he was every single time you saw him on-screen. I hope he’s somewhere up above, looking down on us and calling us all “pig fucks.”

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