After seeing The Master, I’m now trying, unsuccessfully, to master what I saw. What an odd movie. Powerful, yes. Disquieting, yes. Oscar worthy, yes, especially for Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd, the compelling leader of “The Cause,” and for Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell, Hoffman’s manic, neurotic disciple. I was unable to separate the Phoenix from the Quell. How much of Quell’s portrayal was simply Phoenix’s own strangeness and how much was extraordinary acting? How much of the physical mannerisms were the character’s and how much were Joaquin Phoenix’s—the narrowed shoulder thrust, the arms extended to the sides with hands behind the hips, the close-ups of a face that went rapidly from menacing frown to manic grin (with unsmiling eyes)? There’s a scene in a narrow jail cell when Quell, hands handcuffed behind him, goes berserk, kicking to pieces the urinal, banging his head and shoulders into the top bunk. This couldn’t have been faked. I got the feeling this was an unscripted display of violence that Joaquin Phoenix did on his own. He simply had to injure himself with the violence. How much was acting and how much the inner demons of Phoenix? Aside from the publicized parallels to Scientology, this was a film about the nature of the relationship between two men—father and son, master and disciple, potential lovers. Dodd sings (very badly) to Freddie, “I’d Like to Get You on a Slow Boat to China.” Who is really the master who is the disciple? By film’s end it seemed like they had reversed roles. I may have to see this film again to try to answer some of my own questions.
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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life is the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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