11:54 AM EDT, September 8, 2012
Here's a Day 2 recap from the Toronto International Film Festival. Everybody sees a different slate of movies each day here. Friday went this way: After the gamer-oriented slaughter of “Dredd 3D,” the fanciful and tricksy theatrics of director Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina” with Keira Knightley and Jude Law and the Wachowskis’ adaptation of “Cloud Atlas,” which takes place in six different time periods, the mind reeled and the cinematic appetite cried out for something straight and easy.
Instead of seeing any number of other films for the first time, Friday night at TIFF I caught Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” for a second one. (The movie snuck into Chicago’s Music Box Theatre last month for a one-night-only benefit preview.) There are moments, shots, whole passages particularly in the first half, some of which is incomparably beautiful, I’m already dying to re-experience.
This is a sign of true cinema, narrative frustrations notwithstanding – it pulls you in and before you know it, you’re a member of the club. Or the cult. Or The Cause, as the film’s L. Ron Hubbard-styled religious leader, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, calls it.
At TIFF the tweets began flying instantly after the Princess of Wales Theatre “Master” premiere let out shortly after midnight. One of the cleverest came from writer-director Rian Johnson, whose “Looper” opened TIFF earlier this week. He wrote: “I highly doubt an Oscar has a chance of earning The Master this year. But who knows, maybe if the academy made a big publicity push.”
Starring Joaquin Phoenix as an unstable, alcoholic and deeply damaged World War II veteran who falls in with Hoffman’s charismastic snake charmer, “The Master” is pure, hypnotic disorientation, disinterested in a conventional story and more about investigating states of mind, flagrantly at odds with the general peace and prosperity of post-World War II America.
Commercially Anderson’s audacious achievement opens Sept. 21 in New York and L.A. and Sept. 28 elsewhere. When it goes wide, in a dubious and ill-considered release strategy on the Weinstein Company’s behalf, the film can’t or won’t be shown in its preferred projection format,the perversely chosen and wholly gorgeous 70 millimeter. The film itself was largely photographed in the same format, on real film, another near-perversity in the age of digital.
Friday night TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey riled the crowd prior to the screening with the promise of seeing Anderson’s film “in GLORIOUS 70 millimeter!!!” Anderson came on stage, briefly, prior to the screening, and did a little hop-skip dance, and thanked the festival for accommodating the projection demands of his picture.
More on the film soon, closer to the Chicago opening, but for now, I’ll say I’m still struggling with much of the final third; that Anderson’s preoccupation with unruly and unreliable father figures and their offspring (his previous film was “There Will Be Blood”) has reached either a culmination or a cul-de-sac, depending on your response; and that seeing “The Master” at TIFF, not long after Walter Salles’ re-edited “On the Road” made its premiere, puts the works in a relational context.
The midpoint of the 20th Century, its promise, its lost and hungry souls, is very much a focal point of this year's TIFF, thanks to “On the Road” and especially to “The Master.”
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