Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cultism: You Know You Want It (Why's It Everywhere?)

Of course I'm going to see The Master tomorrow, and Wired Magazine knows why:
Beautiful to look at, strangely hypnotic and utterly original, The Master examines cult dynamics through the ’50s-era misadventures of a violent ex-sailor with horrible posture and zero impulse control. 
Filmmaking artistry aside, writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson‘s picture hits home as a period-perfect examination of a perpetually recurring truth: When people hanker for a know-it-all authority figure who will tell them what to think, self-appointed “masters” will be more than happy to oblige. 
Anderson brings cult behavior into fascinating focus by examining the bond between two characters portrayed by extraordinary actors: the accidental, alcoholic seeker Freddie Quill, played by Joaquin Phoenix, and the suave, all-American swami Lancaster Dodd, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. 
The Master casts its own weird, R-rated spell not because it yields shocking revelations or clever plot twists… 
Instead, The Master resonates because its peculiar particulars illustrate why people like Dodd continue to proliferate with near-tragic frequency. Consider such characters as the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who picked spouses for his followers; California Coptic priest Zakaria Botros Henein, whose devotees made the Innocence of Muslims video; and positive-thinking guru James Arthur Ray, whose eager-to-please acolytes sat in a sweat lodge until they died. 
Factor in Vanity Fair magazine’s recent report about Church of Scientology matchmaking practices for Tom Cruise (denied by the organization), and it seems clear that the top-down command structure depicted in The Master remains in full force six decades on. 
Anderson, who’s earned five Oscar nominations for previous obsession-themed films including There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights and Magnolia, situates The Master at a comfortable remove from contemporary cult dysfunction,… 
For all its genteel period touches, The Master strikes a chord with contemporary audiences by probing the feral impulses that fuel groupthink then and now. Anderson strips the cult dynamic down to its rude essence,...The men turn on each other. 
“Nobody likes you Freddie,” Dodd says calmly. “I’m the only one who likes you.” 
Freddie, who’s just finished pounding his head against a bunkbed in a fit of inarticulate rage, finally screams the forbidden notion that everyone in the audience has surely already considered: “You’re making this shit up!” 
In The Master’s portrait of cult dysfunction, the misfit and the mumbo-jumbo man share a toxic alchemy more dangerous than any mad cocktail that Freddie could dream up.
Or me - don't leave me out: 

I seriously had no idea how fucked up y'all are out there,...

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