Joaquin Phoenix

REVIEW: ‘The Master’ Bewitches but Deceives

As readers of these pages know, insanity and religion are Siamese-twin subjects with which I have a nearly obsessive-compulsive fascination.  Back when this was still a blog—or a ‘contrablog,’ as my friend Jen Swallow coined it the other day—I ran a Schizo of the Week item every Friday that featured a character either in the news or from the streets of Hollywood who was affected by symptoms of schizophrenia, the one personality type (I am loath to use the word ‘disorder’) that specifically holds me in its thrall.

Having prefaced with that, it would be impossible for me not to be equally fascinated by Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film The Master, which comes out today in the U.S.; it is mostly about the symbiotic relationship between religion and insanity, with a subtext of the crypto-romantic relationship between a master and his favorite disciple, and how that obsession on the master’s part affects others in his inner circle.

Philip Seymour Hoffman The Master