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Master Piece

Tuesday 20 November 2012, 12:36

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

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After what seems like a long wait Paul Thomas Anderson's new film The Master is now playing in cinemas across the country. It opened first in London in 70mm - who saw it in that format and did it make a difference?

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    Comment number 1.

    While having not seen it myself, yet, but I cannot help thing whether this'll be some kind of analogy to the debate between CD, vinyl and other formats in music. It should be interesting.

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    Comment number 2.

    I saw it in 70mm in London and to be honest it was not worth the extra money. The screen is not that big so you don't appreciate the increased clarity/resolution.Maybe this was because I was sitting nearer to the back, but I doubt it. You need an IMAX sized screen to appreciate 70mm.

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    Comment number 3.

    I would have loved to have seen it in 70mm but there is no where in northern ireland that i know of that is showing it. In the fact the only cinema in my local vacinity that still showed film rather than digital has just recently converted.and you do not know how much i miss the hum of the projector. Im intending on seeing the master as there will be blood was a masterpeice

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    Comment number 4.

    Is Joaquin Phoenix reviewing Transformers: Dark of the Moon?

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    Comment number 5.

    I've been twice to the 70mm print, and it looks unbelievable. It shines off the screen. I'm sure the other prints all retain this to some degree which is hard to compare until we put two screens next to each other.

    But I had to see it on 70mm because he shot it on 70mm and had the 70mm prints made.

    I think what's most interesting about the use of that larger format is that the film doesn't play out, for the most part, on a VistaVision, old-fashioned epic type scale. If anything, you have this insane clarity within only a shallow depth of field. The frame feels like it swims away into the distance but what we're dealing with, all we can really focus on, is that shallow area. To take in the whole of this overwhelming frame would perhaps be too much.

    (I'm saying this with the intention of it being seen as a thematic within the film, I'm not just onanising. I'm onanising AND undertaking a review).

    The Master seems to have one of its many roots in Kubrick, moreso than any other of PTA's films (save for the Korova-tyle bowling alley and 2001-like trajectory of There Will Be Blood). The world is huge and detalied and almost impossibly vast within his frames, but there's a central point upon which our focus is REALLY drawn. Freddie is very often it, be it in close-up when we're fixated on his screwed-up face, or when he wanders all over the frame. I also think one of the things which is so strong about The Master, just as with a lot of Kubrick, is that everything feels placed and it creates a sense of mass, of scale. But not an overbearing, 'study my mise-en-scene' sense. Just an environment which is believable and complex, and while we are drawn to this or that, so much is also going on around it.

    It looks great, it's a wonderful, frustrating, extraordinary film. It's massive, it genuinely contains multitudes, and it shows PTA flexing even more unexpected muscles once again. (I'd point out what I mean but I wouldn't want to spoil anything).

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    Comment number 6.

    It's not playing anywhere near me at all. I have a 14 screen Vue cinema up the road. Not playing at all, no Rust and Bone either. It's nonsense, even screening it for one day would suffice.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 8.

    Just watched it and thought it was amazing. However, the power went off around half way through. Never had that problem with Celluloid!

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    Comment number 9.

    I saw The Master in a digital 'print' at the wonderful Showroom Cinema in Sheffield and agree it looks amazing. The opening shot of the wake of a boat in crisp sumptuous blue sets the tone superbly. I'd still love to see the 70mm print though, to compare and contrast accordingly.

    I find it interesting how Mark refers to cinemas incorporating "what they describe as IMAX screens". I saw The Dark Knight Rises earlier in the year on the IMAX at Cineworld in Sheffield and was left a little underwhelmed by the IMAX experience, particularly for the princely sum of an additional £4.50 on top of a standard ticket!

    Is it just me or is the 'proper' IMAX screen at the National Media Museum in Bradford much bigger than the IMAX 'lite' that is popping up around the country?

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    Comment number 10.

    Will someone PLEASE see sense and show it at the ODEON Marble Arch about a week after they convert the theatre to an IMAX venue with 70mm facility's for the purists ;-)

    COME ON ODEON - TEAR DOWN THE WALLS - You ruined the best screen in London with your little boxes! - Hell I would even consider moving back to London for this!

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    Comment number 11.

    Being an American who was able to see it in September, I'm so glad that my favorite critic loved the film as much as I did. I'd been waiting for it since summertime and it is, for my money's worth, the best film of the year. It *is* a masterpiece. It's a 100% in every department, even the story, which I agree it's quite low on. I'm afraid many critics misunderstood the film simply because it's not formulaic. Of course there's no traditional character development, that's the whole point of the film! It illustrates that Joaquin Phoenix's character was much better off without the cult, as their "curing" methods were fake.

    As for the viewing format, I myself saw it at my nearest arthouse cinema who recently converted to digital and the film still looked beautiful. However, if I had the chance to see it in 70mm, I definitely would have. Celluloid, in my view, is superior to digital because it gives a projection an organic feel, whereas digital feels too perfect, too polished, and, thus, unnatural. Digital I don't mind, I just prefer film. I only distrust digital as a replacement of film.

    As for 3D, Mark, I share your feelings towards it. Nothing but a gimmick that the studios and multiplexes can use as an excuse for audiences to pay more. If it really was the future, it'd be a new thing, which it isn't. That's right, 3D's been sold to us since the '50s; only, then, it wasn't (and literally) forced in our faces. How nice it would've been if it'd stayed dead, to look back on it as some cheesy cultural aspect of the past like a bad '80s haircut. No, sorry, Robert Rodriguez just had to revive it! 3D goes against the whole idea of cinema. It's meant to be an illusion of three dimensions despite being projected in two. 3D ruins that magic by making it three-dimensional, which kills the illusion. Besides, 3D, as a gimmick as old as cinema itself, has become too common place. Every film with special effects these days is in 3D, even if the director didn't want for it to be. Hell, nowadays, you can watch stereoscopy at home on 3D television sets. It's no longer anything special. It might as well be a household commodity.

    I'm very critical of them because of the films they've made, but I highly respect Christopher Nolan and Wally Phister for dismissing 3D as the fad that it is and instead proposing IMAX as the future of cinema. IMAX is in every way the future of more-expensive cinema going. You're getting your money's worth when you pay extra to see it on a larger screen, which is far more immersing that the false illusion of visual depth that modern 3D tries to sell. Plus, in perfect contrast to the commonality of 3D, IMAX screens have their own cinemas, which are only available in large cities (at least here in America).

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    Comment number 12.

    I saw the 70mm print of The Master whilst on holiday in New York last month, and I went to see it specifically because I knew that the Ziegfeld was showing it in that format and I might not have a chance to see it that way back in the UK. It really looked beautiful, bright and vivid.

    It's hard to say whether it truly makes a difference how you see it, but I would venture that it doesn't make a big one. The slight flicker, the scratches and the luminousness of the picture lend the film an appropriately old-fashioned feel and a warmth that can be missing from digital prints, but I don't believe the format trumps the content. The Master would be phenomenal on a VHS tape if that was the only way to see it.

    I'd be sorry to see celluloid go completely, but we mustn't fall into the trap of nostalgia for it's own sake. Change isn't always a bad thing. Digital cinema technology has made it cheaper and quicker to get films to theatres, and in my experience seems to have cut down on a lot of projection problems.

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    Comment number 13.

    I watched it in Digital print and was mesmerised by the performances on screen. The standouts for me were every scene in which PSH and Phoenix were together alone.

    Regarding the 70mm "Gimmick": I don't really care for which format I am shown a particular movie. As long as I am immersed in the film experience and it is able to illicit some form of response from me (hatred, sympathy, love, laughter) then I am fine with it.

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    Comment number 14.

    I have made the effort to see the film twice on 70mm print (needless to say I loved the film in order to justify the expense, and I felt I could appreciate the film better on second viewing as I wasn't completely overwhelmed as I was on my first outing). This was the first time I have seen film projected on 70mm and the first I can remember not being in digital. The depth of colour was outstanding, with the oceans being leant a quality I'm not sure digital would produce. Also, there was noticeable warmth to the projection which I haven't yet seen on digital.

    I'm going to go see a digital projection of 'The Master' on Monday just to see if these qualities are due to the print or Paul Thomas Anderson's masterful direction; I will post my opinions after this viewing for a more definitive response.

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    Comment number 15.

    When I heard that Paul Thomas Anderson was shooting "The Master" on 70mm, I was initially apprehensive that he had morphed into a self-indulgent Michael Cimino 'esk auteur. Fortunately my fear didn't materialise when I finally watched the film on a 70mm print in London; I thought it was absolutely incredible. It felt like I was watching screen classic unfold before my very eyes and ever since watching it I can't stop thinking about it. I've seen it twice now on 70mm and digitally.

    I didn't really notice the resolution and latitude of the 70mm print as I was far too immersed in the story to care. However in comparison to digital version the print did give a certain opulence to the exterior sequences; notably the scenes shot on the beaches and on the warship - it made the sea look really blue.

    Celluloid projection is definitely on the way out, I afraid. I've heard that 20th Century Fox from next year is going discontinue the distribution of 35mm prints of all their films from next year. I'd thoroughly recommend watching the 70mm print of "The Master" if it's still available, it may very well be celluloid's swan song.

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    Comment number 16.

    Seen The Master? are you joking? I live by a World of Silly.Silent hill and Madagascar 3 for me.

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    Comment number 17.

    My local 20-screen multiplex ran this movie, albeit very briefly. I was more confused and frustrated with it than anything, I really lost patience with the film, but I'll be revisiting it when it gets its video release to see if my evaluation was premature. I believe the multiplex screening was in digital, and I'm not necessarily a fan of digital, but I won't deny that it looked simply stunning. Would I have seen it in 70mm? If my multiplex had been showing it, I certainly would've payed move. Would I have driven a significant distance to see a 70mm print? I don't know, probably not. My multiplex has one screen of IMAX, it's one of the smaller screens, sometimes jokingly referred to as LIEMAX. I do drive to the true full-sized IMAX screen to see things, however (I'm still kicking myself for missing my opportunity to see THE DARK KNIGHT RISES in proper IMAX or LIEMAX), it it truly a proper cinematic experience, worth the 20 mile journey. The multiplex LIEMAX screen is pretty stunningly projected digitally though, and his a fantastic sound system, and I'm willing to pay more for that. I'm pretty much done with 3-D, unless something really interesting comes along.

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    Comment number 18.

    [Six blog entries since incident]

    Am I the only one who'd like to hear the Doc's take on the biggest movie news of the year? Seemingly, as I'm the only one berating his silence on the subject...

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    Comment number 19.

    I saw this yesterday on digital (a Brit in California) and visually it was brilliant. To a certain extent I agree with others (@Ammar) who say the format shouldn't matter. Beyond a certain degree of quality, below which your viewing experience is actually disrupted (such as warped film), you should be immersed in the movie. You may get an overall impression of the visual brilliance of the piece (The Master, A Single Man are examples that come to mind - those blue water scenes, and those interior shots) but the actual form of presentation should fall away as you start to believe you are THERE and seeing these things as if in the real world. If immersion happens, you'll lose the conscious awareness of the quality of the information coming in through your eye, it won't matter, and your mind will fill in the rest. I find watching VHS perfectly fine after a few minutes of a good movie, although of course it is never aesthetically visually brilliant.

    As for the movie itself, I applaud PTA's attempt to make something different. However there was such a lack of narrative that, even though the two central performances were insanely good, I was bored. And I hate to say it, but I was bored in a similar way to the predictable narratives in accountancy driven movies (Transformers 2 onwards, Taken 2, 2012, etc). Boredom is boredom I guess.

    I'd just like to ask if anybody else (perhaps @KHolland96) noticed the movie lacked several scenes from the trailer (some of which are included in Mark's video above - both scenes with guns for example). Perhaps I saw a US version compared to a UK cut, and perhaps those extra scenes could have added to the film... perhaps another discussion point: at what point does a film start to be seen as a different film, purely due to editing?

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    Comment number 20.

    I saw this at the Duke of York Picture House in Brighton and don't believe it was in 70mm. Having just watched Kermode's video blog, there seem to be a number of scenes that were not in the version I saw at the Duke's (Phoenix with a gun, jumping off a ship, Amy adams shooting a rifle).

    I'm currently between moving back to Guildford from Brighton and my partner and I can never seem to find a film worth going to see at either cineworld or odeon. On occasion there is 1 film taking up 2 screens in the 2d and 3d version. This autumn the cinema has been flooded with movies sequels and we weren't even interested in the originals (Madagascar 3, Taken 2, Paranormal Activity 4, Silent Hill Revelation etc).

    I work in Guildford and am sick of people telling me how they went to see Taken 2 or Transformers 3 and it was rubbish. Yet when the next sequel is released they'll all flock to see it again due to marketing and be utterly disappointed. This just feeds filmmakers to make more garbage and make another quick buck.

    Why can't the the likes of odeon, cineworld and views show art house/indie flicks for one night only (special screening)

 

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Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

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