Monday, November 19, 2012

Informal Processing

The Master (2012) - Anderson
the master
A sprawling, ambitious work. I enjoyed it just as I enjoyed There Will be Blood and both of them happen to rely heavily upon the tremendous lead performances. Id vs super ego, embodied by Joachim Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, is still very much a PT Anderson acting workshop but more subdued (still hurt my ears with all that shouting though). They still talk plainly what's exactly on their minds like lovelorn teenagers. There is no character arc, no change of minds in Anderson's protagonists. At first, they want to be sympathized with (Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia). But after There Will be Blood, the writer/director seems less concerned with them being understood. They have always been arrogant, self-assured pricks. It's all about them pitted against one another for a dogmatic battle. There Will be Blood could have easily been called The Master.

Still, Phoenix is really amazing, slumped like an injured ape, slurring his words from one side of his mouth, so as Hoffman, red faced most of the time. Amy Adams and others are negligible, barely registering on the radar. PT Anderson movies usually annoy me. The Master didn't. I see it as a departure of sort for him. It's not a character study, doesn't have the strong narrative nor flash camera movement or innovative photography, even though it was shot on crisp 70mm (I do like close ups and constant shot from a low angle). Don't read this as a backhanded compliment. I really do like the Master. There are some great individual scenes in that film. I let out a short laugh and almost cheered Freddie on when he drove off with his bike near the end. I even liked the clunky ending. It might be my new favorite Anderson so far.

Truth on Film

A Man Vanishes (1967) - Imamura
a man vanishes
Imamura's search for the truth goes beyond a representation of reality on film. A plastic salesman has gone missing. The strong willed, pretty wife of the missing man with a film crew in tow sets out on a journey to find him. Interviews after interviews with various people in the man's life reveal no clear picture regarding the disappearance. The film is also a reflection of a society in a specific time and place. People got married for their financial stability without really knowing each other. "How can a man be missing in such a small place?" the voice over in the beginning asks.

Even though Imamura announces in the middle of the film that what we are seeing is a fiction, even after he takes away the studio walls to reveal the sound stage, there is no trace of irony. The wife falls in love with the interviewer/crew member. The film winds down to a sibling rivalry- the case of she said/she said. The shoot ends, director calls cut. People disperse. And we are left with many heady questions: Where is Oshima the plastic salesman? Who is telling the truth? What makes a man? What is reality? A great precursor to current crop of shape-shifting, postmodern cinema, A Man Vanishes is an invigorating experience.