First Footage from "The Master"

Harvey Weinstein just showed a few minutes of footage in Cannes from the upcoming film starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a thinly disguised L. Ron Hubbard.  The Cannes audience got to see footage of Hoffman who doesn’t appear in this teaser for the film.  It appears that Joaquin Phoenix’s character is having some Black Dianetics run on him during a False Purpose Rundown, while we see shots of Sea Org members blowing off some steam away from the Old Man.
Over at Ain’t it Cool News, Quint saw the expanded footage and describes it in detail.  Quint doesn’t know anything about Scientology but from his description it would appear that Amy Adams (as Mary Sue Hubbard) is being all Tone 40 about attacking the Suppressives in their midst.

It seems this unstable seaman has “episodes” and the interviewer wants to know if he remembers the last one. Phoenix clearly doesn’t. “Was there a fight? What happened? Sir?” “Well, let’s just see if we can’t help you remember what happened.”
Enter Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd, a mustachioed self-described writer, doctor, nuclear physicist and theoretical philosopher (“and, above all, I am a man”) and then you get why people have dubbed this the “Scientology Movie.” While Dodd is not L. Ron Hubbard, he sure as hell feels a lot like the man.
Primarily he seems to fit into this story to help Phoenix’s character, much to his wife’s displeasure, it seems. Amy Adams plays Hoffman’s wife and she’s looking a lot like Sissy Spacek in her prime in this film, I gotta say.
She seems to be the extreme one of the two, actually. She goes on a wide-eyed tirade at one point in the footage that was pretty off-putting. The speech goes like this:
“And this is where we are at; at the lowest level… to have to explain ourselves. For what we do we have to grovel! The only way to defend ourselves is to attack. If we don’t do that we will lose every battle that we are engaged in. We will never dominate our environment the way we should unless we attack!”
I like adorable, bubbly Amy Adams! This crazy lady scares me! Make the bad woman go away! I liked the nice one!
Adams distrusts Phoenix’s character, maybe sees that he’s beyond care… or maybe there’s more than meets the eye here. I don’t know. But one of the meatier dramatic moments in the footage comes from Adams trying to get Hoffman’s character to stop Phoenix’s care, paranoia rising in her voice as she states that this man will be their undoing.
Hoffman’s response: “If we are not helping him, then it is we who have failed him.”
That hint of drama makes me more curious to see the movie than anything else in the footage. Hoffman’s just so damn good, his desperate passion showing through in just a few words… and Adams comes across as his biggest fan and supporter in this footage, to see them at odds over this patient is a very interesting dynamic.
I also have to mention a shot of Phoenix opening a suitcase and fire erupting out of it. It was just a quick shot in amongst a bunch of other scenes, like a guy jacking it on a beach and a shot of an insane man rapidly punching a plate glass window like it was a boxer’s speed bag, so I have no idea the context, but Phoenix doesn’t seemed to be all that shocked at fire coming out of his trunk-like suitcase.
The whole vibe of the footage made a bit anxious. Between Jonny Greenwood’s ticking-clock score, the shot compositions (lots of close ups), the length of the camera moves, the slightly disconnected look in Phoenix’s eye and the juxtaposition of image the footage both impressed me and put me on edge, which I’m sure is exactly what Anderson hoped to do.
In other words, very impressive… and again… very Kubrickian. Maybe it was the period and armed forces setting or the long dolly shots, but it really did feel a bit like Full Metal Jacket in terms of the filmmaking angle. Not that it’s any surprise, but I can’t wait to see the full film this October.

A second teaser was released a couple weeks after the first and gives us our first look at Hoffman as the Hubbard figure.
Looks like an intriguing film which is supposed to hit theaters October 12th.