Reflections on ‘The Master’

Last evening I had the chance to watch one of my favorite films of 2012, The Master, on the big screen, where it will run only for a week because it’s not the kind of movie that the public of Chennai flock to, although it is quite better than any of the movies they have flocked to or will ever flock to. I had been waiting for the opportunity to watch it for a second time so that I could arrive at an opinion about the film, as should any critic worth his salt when it comes to any movie. First reactions do not carry any weight because they are more the body responding to what it has seen rather than the mind categorizing the movie into a person’s perspective. If there be any measurement of how good a movie is, it is whether one is able to watch it a second time to gain a concrete perspective about what one feels about it.

The Indian Censor Board once again has succeeded in alienating its audiences. This Indian rehashing of the movie brings with it blurs in scenes where alcohol is consumed, breasts are shown, and cuts where sex is supposed to happen. I don’t understand the alcohol aspect at all. So now when alcohol is consumed on screen it’s going to have an adverse effect on the public and as the Government it’s our responsibility to remove that negative element from society? It didn’t make for a pleasant viewing experience at all, added to the horrible movie going public that exists here. Several people walked out of the movie before the interval, they clearly didn’t know what they were watching.

The Master brings with it Phoenix Unchained, one of the best performances in the last decade. What’s interesting to me is that Freddie Quell isn’t an antihero even though people have easily categorized him as such. He just isn’t your typical hero, more animal than man, making for volatile situations and spectacular shots. What’s also interesting is the loose structure that PTA weaves around the movie, and this free flowing meandering path is also what’s so nerve wracking about it. The climax of The Master has the narrative impact of a seemingly simple sentence in a Carver short story. And it washes over you and leaves you bemused.

My second viewing of this film reduced my admiration for it for two reasons. The first reason that I attribute to it is my obsession about the film immediately after I saw it. I read up everything I could about the movie and transcribed an hour long interview with PTA for his official fansite, Cigarettes and Red Vines, for which I earned a poster of The Master. I even won a BluRay of The Master after I participated in a Twitter contest conducted by Cigarettes and Red Vines. So you could safely say I was surrounded by The Master for quite a bit before and after I saw the movie for the first time. The downside of this obsession is that I acquired knowledge on the humongous number of deleted scenes that were shot by PTA as well as the various stories around the making of the film. For those of you who aren’t aware, PTA shot several scenes that didn’t make it into the final film, and there are lines that pop up in different scenes. Ultimately The Master for me is more than the film itself and consists of all these things, and it’s come to a point where the film itself seems like kind of a letdown. Maybe it’s because of all that censorship nonsense. I think it’s mostly because of that. Time to watch it a third time then. 

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