Paul Thomas Anderson is arguably one of the best American directors working today. His follow up to the masterpiece that was 2007’s There Will Be Blood, is called The Master. On paper, the synopsis of the film seems to represent the story of the birth of a cult, but speculation that the film’s plot is merely a thinly veiled interpretation of the beginnings of (sort-of cult) Scientology are often played down by Anderson and co. Friend and high profile Scientology advocate, Tom Cruise, was ironically rumored to have “had issues” with it after a private screening, which only serves to fuel such talk. Whatever it is or isn’t supposed to be, what we know is that acting powerhouse and P.T regular, Phillip Seymour Hoffman takes on the role of the titular “Master” (Lancaster Dodd) and I expect to see him bring Daniel Day-Lewis levels of performance, who scored an Oscar for his towering portrayal of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. He is a fairly diverse director, but The Master, judging by this brief teaser, is possibly taking it’s cues from that film in terms of style; a sparse dark score, stark cinematography and intense acting seem to be the order of the day.
The key role of Dodd’s first disciple/right-hand man, a drifter named Freddie, is played by the intriguing – and at times brilliant, Joaquin Phoenix, whom also seems to have embraced the “method” here. Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Avengers) was offered the role but had scheduling conflicts and I’m pretty glad that he did actually. I have always been a fan of Phoenix and he has an awkward brooding about him which seems perfectly suited to the unhinged Freddie for my money. Laura Dern, Amy Adams and Kevin J. O’Connor round out the supporting players.
The first trailer is a strange 90 seconds but like all good “teasers”, it keeps the cards close to the chest but has just enough to put the hooks in you and want more. As with all his previous films; the impressive debut Hard Eight, the joyously brilliant Altman-like Boogie Nights, the intriguing behemoth Magnolia, bizarre comedy-drama Punch-Drunk Love and the greatest film of the last decade, There Will Be Blood, we will no doubt be in for something truly unique. The Master has not yet received an official Australian release date, but I’d expect it to land around mid-January 2013
EDIT: second teaser added 20-06-12
From one of the current greatest American directors, to one that has possibly had the biggest influences on popular American cinema in the last two decades, Quentin Tarantino. For most people of my generation, from his debut, Reservoir Dogs through the almost genre creating Pulp Fiction, the experiment that was Grindhouse to his last – possibly his greatest – film, the violently quirky WWII set Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino receives anticipation like no other Hollywood filmmaker. For the last ten years, he has focused producing specific genre films, and after the Martial Arts epic that was Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2, we got the war film in Basterds and now we have the Spaghetti Western in Django Unchained. Though given the setting, he insists on calling the film a “Southern” as opposed to Western.
The character of Django (“The ‘D’ is silent”) has already been portrayed in over 30 films going back to 1966 and Franco Nero’s inception of the man for the first time (Not one to shy from his influences, the director has handed Nero a cameo in this film too). Here, Jamie Foxx marks the 15th actor to take on the name, though initially Will Smith was all set to take the role on but pulled out at the eleventh hour. Idris Elba and Chris Tucker were also apparently considered along with Foxx. As with most of his films, the ensemble of actors Tarantino wrangles up usually inspires bravado and curiosity. Django is no exception, with a list that includes Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Dern, Tom Savini and Don Johnson amongst others. Intriguingly and almost unfortunately, the actors in consideration, some of which had all but signed on the dotted line of the contract, leaves you wondering what could have been; the likes of Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Kenneth-Williams and Sascha Baron-Cohen were all originally slated for some of the main characters. Waltz remains, however, Tarantino’s latest muse. Garnering an Oscar for his role in Basterds, here he plays Dr. King Schultz; the bounty hunter whom Django joins forces with to exact revenge as well as collect a bounty.
Django Unchained will probably not match the ridiculous brilliance of his last film, but we all know the director doesn’t do things by halves. I expect a clever, cheeky script deep in exceptional detail of the time period and nods to various Western classics, performances both rousing and hilarious, extreme violence, a raucous selection of outstanding music and a running time of at least 150 minutes. So while it won’t be until 2013 that we get to see it, all of the above has me quietly excited about the fun to be had with this one.