What To Watch Thursday: The Master and No

What To Watch Thursday: The Master and No

Feb 14, 2013 |  by  |  Art, Event
About the author
Born and raised in this amazing city, Steven (25) remembers quite vividly the first film that as a young boy got him addicted to cinema: The Neverending Story. And it really is a never-ending story, his grand film study has gone on ever since. Since then his taste has extended beyond such a fantasy coming-of-age film and will now guide you to what to see and what to skip.

What-To-Watch-Thursday is Overdose’s new weekly film-concept: every Thursday – which traditionally is Premiere-night in the cinemas across Amsterdam – we will review at least two films that are definitely worth your while. Our main goal is to shield you from horrible films and wasting your precious time. In the process we will try and give you as much in-depth background, without spoiling anything!

The Master

Anticipation: P.T. Anderson has firmly established himself as a brilliant director with the release of his last film There Will Be Blood (2007). When news got out that he would return with another historical fiction film titled The Master, many cinephiles greatly anticipated this project. Five years later, PTA’s new spiritual post-WWII film does not disappoint. We meet alcohol-dependent veteran Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), a lost soul who has suffered tremendous physical and psychological strain during WWII. When re-introduced to 1950s American society, Quell struggles to adapt to life in peacetime and to vanquish his demons. One night, and in a drunken haze, he boards a private yacht which is chartered by ‘cult-leader’ Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). What unfolds initially appears to be a juxtaposition of two American archetypes: the self-made and confident Dodd and confused war veteran Quell. However, this is only the first appearance. Nothing is quite so straightforward and, instead, what develops in a lengthy story of two people entangled in a complex struggle for dependency, friendship and love.

Appreciation: The Master is hard to fully grasp at times and, ultimately, leaves us unsatisfied as we are left with no clear answers or message. It is hard to tell exactly what PTA is trying to leave us with. Lancaster Dodd’s character is based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and in much of the film, PTA describes the inner workings of a cult called The Cause. Despite this, however, this film isn’t specifically about Scientology or any other cult for that matter. And perhaps that is one of its greatest qualities: the fact that everyone will see and judge it differently.

I feel that judging this film in a traditional way would sell it short. The quality is undeniable. It is gorgeously shot on a decaying 70mm format. The acting is more than astounding; Hoffman’s performance is easily one of his career’s best. It is Phoenix, however, that ultimately steals the show; his towering performance will stay with you for a long time. In retrospect this film is an enigmatic wonder, it’s about as intriguing as cinema can get.

Length: 144 min.

Verdict: 4/5 – Cinema doesn’t get much better than this – it will continue to haunt and linger long after it’s done.

Where to see: Watch this film in Cineville’s Cinecenter and The Movies. Also in Pathe cinemas (City and Tuschinski).


Anticipation: Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s third and final part of the Pinochet-trilogy No is quite a surprise hit. The first two instalments Tony Manero and Post Mortem were both critically acclaimed but failed to reach big crowds. This film however, about the 1988 Chilean referendum on the continuing of General Augusto Pinochet’s presidency, is making waves. It might be because it stars the ever eye-catching Gael García Bernal as cynical, smart and witty ad-man René Saavedra. Or perhaps it’s because of the Academy Award nomination it’s recently received. Regardless, No is every bit as interesting as it sounds on paper: a political thriller with a pinch of Mad-Men in late 80’s Chile. René is a pop-culture infected success of an ad executive who’s far from the new Che Guevara. And despite his ambiguous political views – even a pitch for Free Cola is, according to René, “in line with the current social context” – he is chosen as the leading man for the anti-Pinochet campaign that’s supposed to make the people of Chile vote: NO.

Appreciation: No is remarkably upbeat and chipper. In fact it’s the most crowd-pleasing film in Larraín’s intelligent socio-political trilogy. Larraín juxtaposes hilarious TV commercials with darkly cynical dialogue. Despite this film being far more accessible than its predecessors, in no way does it negate its artistic values. The film’s aesthetics are the boldest Larraín has been so far. The entire movie is shot on a vintage 80’s tv-camera and you can’t distinguish between the new footage and that from the original newsreels and advertisements. I can imagine this choice of film being a disaster but the cinematography is, in fact, an awe-inspiring achievement. The same goes for Bernal’s performance, he is nothing short of amazing. Already one of the better films of 2013.

Length: 118 min.

Verdict: 4/5 – Despite it’s difficult aesthetic, this is an brilliant and rewarding film.

Where to see: Watch this film in Cineville’s Cinecenter, Eye and Rialto.

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