Paul Thomas Anderson
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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Paul Thomas Anderson... IN PROGRESS

Hard Eight (1996) is a character study disguised as a slow-paced noir thriller.

An elderly man in a suit and tie, Sydney, a professional gambler, picks up a young bum, John, who needs money to bury his mother. Sydney refuses to lend him the money but offers to teach him how to earn it. He takes him into the casino and shows him how he can get a free room and inexistent money by pretending to be a big-time gambler.
Two years later, Sydney and John are still working together Sydney is a gentleman, who respects the girls who work at the casino, which other customers treat like prostitutes. One of them, Clementine, is John's girlfriend. Sydney meets her outside: she's obviously coming from a sexual appointment. She tells him of a hard and unhappy life, of trying to save money. Sydney behaves like an extraterrestrial observer, watching from a distance, apparently indifferent, perhaps compassionate, but mostly inactive.
John has a new friend, the vulgar Jimmy, a security advisor. Sydney is uncomfortable with his rude language. He also resents when Clementine thinks he wants to have sex with her just because he is being nice to her. He bets (and loses) a lot of money when a young, arrogant kid makes fun of his old age in front of everybody.
John gets in trouble and calls Sydney for help. He has taken a man hostage, a customer of Clementine who refuses to pay her, and has called the wife to ask for a ransom. Sydney assails the hooker, but John is truly in love with her, and, worse, he married her that very afternoon. He is emotionally hooked. Sydney tries to convince him to run away, but she does not want to leave without her money. Finally, they accept his plan and take off for their honeymoon, while Sydney makes sure they don't leave any clues behind.
But John is stupid enough to call Jimmy and tell him what has happened. Jimmy gives Sydney an appointment and tells him that he knows the secret that Sydney has been hiding all the time from John: Sydney shot John's father in the face. Sydney has behaved like a father to John out of guilt. Now Jimmy wants money to shut up. Sydney gives him the money and Jimmy disappears.
John calls from a telephone booth. He is really in love with the hooker. After he hangs up, Sydney drives to Jimmy's house, breaks in and loads a gun. When Jimmy comes home with a hooker, Sydney shoots him without saying a word, takes his money and leaves.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Gaia Giorgi)

Hard Eight/ Sydney (1996) si presenta come un'analisi condotta su di un personaggio ma con fattezze da lento thriller/noir.

Un uomo anziano in giacca e cravatta, Sydney, giocatore d'azzardo professionista, raccoglie un giovane vagabondo in cerca di denaro per poter seppellire la propria madre. Sydney si rifiuta di prestargli soldi ma si offre di insegnargli a guadagnarseli. Lo porta con se' nei casino' e gli mostra come sia possibile prendere una camera e soldi spacciandosi come giocatore d'alto livello.
Due anni dopo, Sydney e John, lavorano ancora insieme. Sydney e' un gentiluomo, rispetta le ragazze del casino trattate dagli altri come prostitute. Una di loro, Clementine, e' la ragazza di John. Sydney la incontra fuori, al ritorno da quello che e` stato chiaramente un incontro con un cliente. Gli racconta della propria vita, triste e difficile, nel tentativo di risparmiare soldi. Sydney si comporto come un osservatore estraneo, straniato, in apparenza indifferente, forse pietoso ma incapace di agire.
John ha un nuovo amico, Jimmy, consulente di sicurezza piuttosto rozzo; Sydney si trova a disagio con il suo linguaggio triviale. In piu' si dispiace quando Clementine immagina che desideri andare a letto con lei solo perche' le sta diventando simpatico. Scommette (e perde) quando un giovane, arrogante si prende gioco della sua eta' di fronte a tutti John si trova nei guai e chiede aiuto a Sydney. Ha preso un ostaggio, un cliente di Clementine che si rifiuta di pagarla, ed ha chiamato la moglie per pagare il riscatto. Sydney se la prende con la prostituta ma John e` veramente innamorato: si sono appena sposati. E' ormai suo schiavo affettivo. Sydney tenta di convincerlo a fuggire ma la sposina non se ne vuole andare senza i soldi. Alla fine decidono di partire per la luna di miele mentre Sydney si assicura che non lascino tracce. Purtroppo John e' tanto stupido da chiamare Jimmy e riferirgli quanto accaduto. Jimmy da' un appuntamento a Sydney dicendogli di conoscere il segreto che Sydney ha tenuto nascosto per tutto il tempo: Sydney uccise il padre di John sparandogli in viso. Sydney era stato per l'innocente John come un padre. Ora Jimmy vuole i soldi per tacere. Sydney gli da' i soldi e Jimmy scompare.
John chiama da una cabina telefonica. John e' veramente innamorato della ragazza. Dopo aver riagganciato, Sydney va in auto fino alla casa di Jimmy, irrompe all'interno e carica una pistola. Quando Jimmy torna con una prostituta, Sidney gli spara senza dire una parola, prende i suoi soldi e se ne va.
If English is your first language and you could translate the Italian text, please contact me.
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Boogie Nights (1997) Jack e` un regista di film pornografici che bazzica il club di Rodriguez in cui lavorano "rollergirl" (una ragazza che gira sempre in pattini a rotelle) e Eddie, un umile sguattero. Jack vede in Eddie una futura star del porno e gli propone di lavorare con lui. Jack e` scettico, ma lo convincono (dopo che "rollergirl" gli ha fatto un pompino in uno sgabuzzino). Jack gli chiede di dargli un saggio scopando rollergirl sul divano di casa sua. Uno degli uomini del team di Jack e` un loser la cui moglie scopa con tutti, in casa sua e di fronte a lui. Il sogno del nero Buck e` di vendere stereo, ma viene licenziato dal negozio e non gli resta che lavorare per Jack. La madre di Eddie lo rimprovera di non voler studiare e alla fine Eddie deve andarsene. A un party di Eddie (la moglie del loser sta scopando con un altro in mezzo alla strada), fra cocaina e belle ragazze, si inaugurano le riprese del nuovo film. L'attrice principale e` la favorita di Jack, Maggie. Eddie fa faville e presto diventa una star, oltre che il cocco di Maggie, l'amante di rollergirl, il sogno proibito di un omosessuale e il protetto di Jack. Eddie vince premio dopo premio. A un party di fine anno il loser ammazza la moglie e l'ennesimo amante e poi si suicida davanti a tutti. Eddie si lascia andare alla vita di vizi, sempre piu` succube della cocaina. L'erezione diventa sempre piu` difficile. Alla fine litiga con Jack, che lo licenzia. Ha gia` pronto il suo sostituto. Eddie prova a fare il cantante, ma si fuma tutti i soldi e non puo` pagare i nastri che ha registrato con l'amico. Il nero Buck intanto si e` sposato e sta cercando di rifarsi una vita aprendo un suo negozio di stereo, ma la banca non gli concede prestiti perche' e` un pornografo. Maggie cerca di vedere suo figlio, ma la giudice glielo nega perche' lei e` una pornografa. Una sera Jack riprende rollergirl che scopa con un ragazzo preso a caso nel posteriore della limousine, ma il ragazzo si monta la testa e li offende: prima Jack e poi rollergirl gli spaccano la faccia. Eddie tenta di masturbarsi in auto ma non ci riesce, viene aggredito da una banda di teppisti. Buck sta comprando paste in un negozio quando irrompe un rapinatore e si scatena una sparatoria. Muoiono tutti meno lui, e il gruzzolo rimane per terra. Buck lo prende e se la squaglia. Eddie e due amici cercano di fare soldi truffando un ricco cocainomane. Il pazzo li paga sull'unghia ma poi li trattiene. Uno degli amici di Eddie decide di tentare il grande colpo, tira fuori la pistola e domanda la cassaforte. Si scatena la sparatoria e alla fine il giovane muore. Il ricco insegue Eddie e l'altro amico per strada sparando loro dietro. Eddie, disperato, torna da Jack implorando aiuto. Jack lo perdona e Maggie lo consola. Buck ha aperto il suo negozio con i soldi della rapina e sta per avere un figlio. Rollergirl va al liceo. Rogriguez apre un nuovo locale. A casa di Jack sono tutti una grande famiglia: Jack e` il nonno patriarca, Buck il padre, e poi via via le altre generazioni. Film molto lungo, con molte scene prolisse.

Magnolia (1999) is a very long film about a number of separate stories that somehow intersect. Unfortunately, the intersection carries no meaning and the film remains simply a snapshot of life in the city.

Donnie is a humble superstore salesman who used to be famous as the "whiz kid" of a tv show. He drives his car into the window of a store.
Earl is a rich old man who is dying, assisted by his young and attractive wife Linda and by a nurse, Philip.
A very religious cop, who is looking for a girlfriend, responds to a call and finds a corpse in a black woman's apartment.
Every now and then the screen is occupied by the weather conditions ("partly cloudy", "rain", etc).
Linda begs a doctor to help the dying man, but the doctor can only write her a prescription for even stronger morphine. In the meantime Earl tells Philip that he hasn't seen his son Frank in many years.
His son is a sex freak who makes money with seminars that promote a macho view of how to treat women. His show is vulgar to the extreme. A reporter has come to interview him.
Jimmy is an old man who goes to visit his daughter Claudia. She is in bed with a man, but says he is not her boyfriend. Jimmy tries to talk to her but she's hysterical and asks him to leave. Jimmy tries to tell her that he's dying of cancer, but she won't listen. She screams until he leaves.
Donnie is being fired by his boss. He begs in vain.
The cop has been joined by many other cops on the scene of the crime and somebody else is taking credit for the discovery. A black kid chats with the cop.
Another child, Stanley, is in a library studying a lot of books. He is the new whiz kid at the tv show. The entire show revolves around him, who is very close to establishing the new record. Jimmy is the host of the tv show. Jimmy talks to his wife over the phone about Claudia.
Claudia is doing drugs in her apartment. The cop knocks at her door: there is a been a report of loud music.
Earl begs Philip to find his son. Philip finds out that his ads are in Playboy and orders the magazine from the store.
Frank is being grilled by the interviewer. He believes in the disgusting persona he impersonates and the interviewer tries to find out why he is so macho and shows so little respect for women.
Donnie goes to the bar. He is secretely in love with the (male) bartender, who is courted also by a rich old pervert. Donnie, half drunk, talks to the pervert and describes how his parents took all the money he made from the tv show.
The cop is trying to make friends with Claudia.
Linda buys medicines at the pharmacy and is outraged that the clerk thinks she's using them to do drugs.
Jimmy is asking questions and Stanley is answering most of them, as usual.
Philip is trying to get in touch with Frank.
Stanley pees in his pants because they won't let him go to the restrooms and from here on he shuts up. Jimmy is visibly sick, but hangs on.
The interviewer has cornered Frank and proven that he is lying.
Linda is talking to her lawyer. She confesses that she married Earl for his money, the she cheated on him. But now she loves him and can't stand the thought of inheriting his money, so she wants the attorney to change the will. At the same time she doesn't want Frank to inherit the money.
Claudia is doing drugs again when the cop comes to pay another visit. At the end the cop asks her for a date and she's excited like a teenager.
The interviewer knows that Earl left Frank and his mother and Frank had to take care of his mother while she was dying of cancer. Frank, petrified, kicks her out.
Donnie confesses his love to the bartender. The old pervert, jealous, shows dollar bills to the bartender.
Stanley refuses to answer and is losing the game.
Linda is back home but hesitates to turn off the car: she contemplates suicide.
Philip finally gets Frank on the phone and tells him that his father is dying.
Stanley bursts out that he's not a toy.
The cop loses his gun while running after somebody and that is very embarassing for him.
Philip gets interrupted by Linda who is mad at him for calling Frank. Frank was hanging up anyway, annoyed by the news.
Frank on stage again, basically preaching that men should behave the way his father behaved with his mother.
Earl regrets what he's done and tells Philip.
Jimmy is back home with his loving wife.
Donnie has duplicates of the supermarket keys.
Linda in the rain drinks the medicines and mixes them in a fatal manner.
The cop arrives on time at the date with Claudia.
Frank has driven to Earl's house.
The black child finds Linda unconscious and calls the police.
Jimmy tells his wife that he cheated on her. She would forgive him that, but then she he admits that he may have also molested Claudia, and then his loving wife runs out disgusted.
Donnie robs the supermarket.
Frank talks to Earl who is unconscious and vents his anger, but his voice is broken.
Claudia is afraid that the cop would not like her and runs back home.
Frank is crying like a baby.
Donnie changes his mind and drives back to return the money. But the key broke in the lock and he has to climb the wall to break in. The cop sees him and turns the car.
At that moment frogs start falling from the sky, all over the city. All the characters are scared. Millions of frogs smashing windows and roofs. The ambulance that is carrying Linda at the hospital overturns. Jimmy is about to commit suicide but is saved by the frogs that fall on his gun. Donnie is hit while climbing and falls to the ground. The cop helps him find shelter. Jimmy's wife arrives at Claudia's place and they hug. The noise wakes up Earl who sees Frank and dies.
Later, Frank gets a phone call from the hospital. The cop helps Donnie return the money. The cop's gun falls from the sky.
They are all lonely and desperate.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Corrado Cantelli)

Magnolia (1999) e' un film molto lungo su una varieta' di storie separate che in qualche modo s'intersecano. Sfortunatamente tali incontri non recano alcun significato e il film rimane semplicemente un'istantanea della vita in citta'.

Donnie e' un umile commesso di supermercato che un tempo era famoso come "bambino prodigio" in uno show televisivo. Finisce con la macchina dentro la vetrina di un negozio. Earl e' un anziano facoltoso che sta morendo, assistito dalla sua giovane e attraente moglie Linda, e da un infermiere, Philip. Un poliziotto molto religioso, che sta cercando una fidanzata, risponde a una chiamata e trova un cadavere nell'appartamento di una donna nera. Ogni tanto appaiono sullo schermo le condizioni del tempo ("parzialmente nuvoloso", "pioggia", ecc.) Linda prega un dottore di aiutare l'uomo morente, ma questi puo' soltanto scriverle una prescrizione per della morfina ancora pió potente. Intanto Earl dice a Philip che non vede suo figlio Frank da molti anni. Suo figlio e' un fanatico del sesso; fa soldi con dei seminari che promuovono un punto di vista "macho" su come trattare le donne. Il suo show e' ai limiti del volgare. Una cronista e' venuta a intervistarlo.
Jimmy e' un uomo anziano che va a trovare sua figlia Claudia. Lei e' a letto con un uomo, ma dice che non e' il suo compagno. Jimmy prova a parlarle ma lei e' isterica e gli chiede di andarsene. Jimmy cerca di dirle che sta morendo di cancro, ma lei non vuole ascoltarlo. Si mette a gridare finche' lui se ne va. Donnie viene licenziato dal suo datore di lavoro. Implora invano. Il poliziotto e' stato raggiunto da molti altri agenti sul luogo del delitto e qualcun altro si sta prendendo il merito per la scoperta. Un ragazzino nero chiacchiera col poliziotto. Un altro bambino, Stanley, e' in biblioteca che studia una gran quantita' di libri. E' il nuovo bambino prodigio dello show televisivo. L'intero programma ruota attorno a lui, che ä molto vicino a stabilire il nuovo record. Jimmy e' il conduttore dello show. Parla al telefono con sua moglie a proposito di Claudia. Claudia si sta drogando nel suo appartamento. Il poliziotto bussa alla sua porta: c'e' stata una denuncia per il volume troppo alto della musica. Earl prega Philip di trovare suo figlio. Philip scopre che i suoi annunci sono su Playboy e ordina la rivista dal negozio.
Frank viene messo alla prova dall'intervistatrice. Lui crede nella persona disgustosa che interpreta, e l'intervistatrice cerca di capire perche' e' tanto spudoratamente macho, mostrando cosi' poco rispetto per le donne. Donnie va al bar. E' segretamente innamorato del barista, che e' corteggiato anche da un vecchio ricco e pervertito. Donnie, mezzo ubriaco, parla al pervertito e descrive come i suoi genitori si sono presi tutti i soldi che aveva guadagnato al programma televisivo. Il poliziotto cerca di fare amicizia con Claudia. Linda compra le medicine in farmacia e s'infuria perche' il commesso pensa che le usi per drogarsi. Jimmy fa delle domande e Stanley risponde quasi a tutte come sempre. Philip cerca di contattare Frank. Stanley si fa la pipi' addosso perche' non vogliono lasciarlo andare al bagno, e d'ora in avanti resta zitto. Jimmy e' visibilmente malato ma resiste. L'intervistatrice ha messo alle corde Frank ed ha dimostrato che sta mentendo. Linda parla al suo avvocato. Confessa che ha sposato Earl per i suoi soldi, e che lo ha tradito. Ma ora lo ama e non puo' sopportare il pensiero di ereditare le sue sostanze, allora chiede all'avvocato di cambiare le volonta'. Allo stesso tempo non vuole che le erediti Frank. Claudia si sta drogando ancora quando il poliziotto viene nuovamente a farle visita. Alla fine le chiede un appuntamento e lei si sente eccitata come una ragazzina. L'intervistatrice sa che Earl ha lasciato Frank e sua madre e che Frank ha dovuto prendersi cura di lei mentre moriva di cancro. Frank, impietrito, la caccia via. Donnie confessa il suo amore al barista. Il vecchio pervertito, geloso, le mostra dei bigliettoni. Stanley si rifiuta di rispondere e sta perdendo la partita. Linda e' tornata a casa ma esita a spegnere la macchina: considera il suicidio. Philip trova finalmente Frank al telefono e gli dice che suo padre sta morendo. Stanley sbotta che non e' un giocattolo. Il poliziotto perde la pistola mentre insegue qualcuno e cio' e' molto imbarazzante per lui. Philip viene interrotto da Linda che e' arrabbiata con lui per aver chiamato Frank, il quale stava comunque riattaccando, infastidito dalla notizia. Frank e' di nuovo in scena, predicando, in pratica, che gli uomini dovrebbero comportarsi nel modo in cui il padre si e' comportato con sua madre. Earl e' dispiaciuto per quello che ha fatto, e lo dice a Philip. Jimmy e' tornato a casa con la sua moglie amorevole.
Donnie ha i duplicati delle chiavi del supermercato. Linda beve le medicine sotto la pioggia e le mischia in modo fatale. Il poliziotto arriva puntuale all'appuntamento con Claudia. Frank e' andato a casa di Earl. Il ragazzino nero trova Linda in stato d'incoscienza e chiama la polizia. Jimmy dice alla moglie che l'ha tradita. Lei glielo perdonerebbe, ma poi lui confessa che potrebbe aver anche molestato Claudia, e allora la sua dolce moglie se ne va disgustata. Donnie rapina il supermercato. Frank parla a Earl, che e' incosciente, e gli grida la sua rabbia, ma la voce e' rotta. Claudia teme che potrebbe non piacere al poliziotto e fugge a casa. Frank piange come un bambino. Donnie cambia idea e torna indietro a restituire i soldi. Ma la chiave si rompe nella serratura cosi' deve arrampicarsi sul muro per introdursi. Il poliziotto lo vede e volta la sua auto. In quel momento cominciano a cadere rane dal cielo su tutta la citta'. Tutti i personaggi sono terrorizzati. Milioni di rane infrangono tetti e finestre. L'ambulanza che porta Linda all'ospedale si cappotta. Jimmy si sta per suicidare ma e' salvato dalle rane che cadono sulla pistola. Donnie e' colpito mentre si arrampica e cade giu'. Il poliziotto attutisce la sua caduta. La moglie di Jimmy va da Claudia e si abbracciano. Il rumore sveglia Earl che vede Frank e muore. Piu' tardi Frank telefona a Linda all'ospedale. Il poliziotto aiuta Donnie a restituire il denaro. La pistola del poliziotto cade dal cielo.
Sono tutti soli e disperati.
Punch-Drunk Love (2002) There Will Be Blood (2007) is a historical drama of sorts, with more atmosphere than action. It flows very slowly, retelling the kind of story that has been told many times (of the self-made godless millionaire who ends his life alone). The most interesting part of the film is perhaps the context between the atheist and the preacher, that, left in the background for most of the story, comes to the fore only at the end, and tragically so. Several scenes could have made a lot shorter, but overall the historical reconstruction is impeccable and the slow pace adds a majestic tone to what would otherwise be a Zola-esque saga. The film opens with two mining accidents, one in 1898 and one in 1902. In the first one the lone miner, Daniel, survives and manages to save a sample of gold to claim the mine. The same man is the boss in 1902, carrying a little child around to show him the oil well that they own. The child, HW, is the son of the miner who died in the accident. The child is almost a teenager when Daniel has become an experienced oil man looking for investors and for miners. One day a young man shows up, Paul, offering him a tip for money. Daniel pays him and Paul reveals that there is oil coming to the surface on land owned by his family in a very desolate place. Daniel travels to the ranch pretending to be hunting for quails with his "son". Paul's father is an extremely nice man who lets him camp on his property for free and even gives him food. Paul's brother is actually a twin. And they are very religious people, and Eli is actually a pastor. While hunting in the rocky terrain, the child trips on a rock and indeed finds oil. Daniel offers to buy the ranch for very little, but Paul's twin Eli is not stupid and knows about the oil. Daniel has to pay a decent sum to Eli's church. After making the deal with Paul's father, Daniel quickly buys the land around the ranch, promising schools, roads and irrigation with the money raised from oil. Only one man refused to sell his land to Daniel, Bandy. Within days the train brings Daniel's team to the ranch. There is no town to talk about. Eli, as the pastor of the community, offers to bless the well, but, instead, Daniel forgets about him and has his own son start the well. But tragedy immediately strikes and one worker is killed. Daniel watches a possessed Eli perform exorcism at his church, and then approaches Eli to say a prayer for the funeral of the worker, but Eli blames the accident on sinful behavior (drinking alcohol). Another accident (a huge explosion) almost kills HW and turns him deaf. The fire burns down the derrick. Eli comes to ask for the money that Daniel owes him just when Daniel has learned that HW's hearing is permanent. Daniel mocks Eli's healing skills, Eli blames the accident on the improper blessing. Daniel kicks him in the butt and drags him in the mud while Eli keeps screaming that Daniel owes money to the church. At home Eli shows his devilish persona by insulting and attacking his father for believing Daniel. Eli knows that Paul is the one who tipped Daniel and caused all this trouble. Eli is full of hatred for both his father and his twin brother.
One day a man introduces himself to Daniel as his half-brother Henry, son of his father from another woman, whom Daniel has never met. Henry read about Daniel in the newspaper and decided to trek all the way there to look for a job. Daniel hires him but causes HW's jealousy. HW sets fire to the house. Daniel takes HW on a train ride and then abandons him on the train, to be taken to a school far away. A big corporation makes an offer that would make Daniel an instant millionaire, but the pipeline needs to run across the Bandy ranch that is the only place not owned by Daniel. Daniel now suspects Henry to be an impostor, and, interrogated about childhood facts, eventually Henry admits that he simply knew the real Henry, who is long dead. Daniel pulls out a pistol and shoots him dead, then buries him in the night. He then makes a fire, gets drunk and cries looking at childhood memorabilia. He is found in the morning by an old man, who happens to be Bandy himself, who happens to know about the plan to build a pipeline. Bandy, indifferent to money, demands that Daniel saves himself by joining Eli's church, hinting that he knows about the murder. Daniel has to go through the humiliating process of being redeemed and exorcised by Eli in public on his knees. Daniel gets his pipeline project in return for bringing back HW and taking care of him. Eli leaves to preach the gospel around the world.
The film fast forwards suddenly to 1927, when HW, still deaf, marries Eli's sister Mary . Daniel lives in a colossal mansion, but has lost any interest in life: he has become a lonely alcoholic Technically speaking, HW is a partner in his business. HW is deserting him too, and to start a competing oil company. A drunk and angry Daniel makes the ultimate revelation, that HW is not his son and that the only reason Daniel adopted him is to have an innocent face when buying land. HW leaves, deeply hurt.
When Eli returns, he finds Daniel drunk and asleep on the floor of the bowling alley of his huge mansion. Eli is unusually friendly. Eli tells Daniel that Bandy is dead and that the land is for sale through the church. The land should be valuable because it is the only one that has never been drilled. Eli is clearly anxious to sell that land and make money for his church. Daniel realizes it and demands that first Eli admits that God does not exist and that he, Eli, is a charlatan. Eli, who is obviously desperate to make the deal, eventually accepts. Daniel lets him humiliate himself and then tells his the truth: that the Bandy land is worthless because Daniel's oil company has already sucked all the oil that there was through surrounding wells. Eli breaks down and tells Daniel that he has sinned and lost money. Daniel makes fun of him and starts throwing bowling balls at him. Eli runs around frightened and Daniel chases him until he hits him in the head with a bowling pin. Then Daniel keeps hitting the lifeless body to death. The butler comes to check on the noise, not quite surprised to see a bloody body on the floor, and Daniel simply says "I'm finished."
The Master (2012), the first film filmed in 65mm stock since Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (1996), is set in the mythological "Far West" like its predecessors. None of them is a "western movie" though. The film is visually impressive (and chromatically rich) but psychologically cold with a fragile storyline that feels more like a patchwork of independent stories (and that apparently refers to Scientology, a popular cult in the USA at the time). In fact, it feels mostly improvised. Its analysis of cult religions seem to start where There Will Be Blood ended. It is not even clear who is the main character. On one hand, the film focuses on Freddie, a psychotic loser with an insatiable appetite for sex, but the story is mostly about the cult created by a narcissist self-appointed prophet, Lancaster, who sounds like a blend of Elmer Gantry and Citizen Kane. The relationship between the two is interesting at the beginning, and so is the camera's swinging from one's point of view to the other's point of view, but then the relationship gets confused and, ultimately, tedious The main reason to watch this film is really the visual experience. World War II has just ended. Sailors at the beach make a woman of sand. Freddie tries to have sex with her, another sailor masturbates into the ocean. Freddie has problems, mostly related to sex, and psychologists try to cure him. While talking to one of them he starts a flashback to his parents. He becomes a photographer in a shopping mall. He has sex with a client, then beat up another one (her husband?). He takes refuge in a rural village, but one night, drinking with villagers, offers something too strong to a man who almost dies of it. Freddie has to run away through the fields, chased by the villagers. He ended up walking at night along the pier. He wakes up on a ship and the commander tells him that it was him who applied for a job as a sailor. The commander thinks he looks familiar. He is also a scientist, philosopher and a writer. The commander, Lancaster, invites him to his daughter Elizabeth's wedding. The commander is inspired by Freddie to write. On the ship he witnesses psychological experiments with five people recording everything that the patients reveal during therapy. Everybody on board is connected with a cult that the commander is creating, the Cause. The commander asks him to volunteer for a psychoanalytic session from which we learn that he had sex with his aunt, he doesn't know where his mother is, his father died drunk and he is still in love with his old sweetheart Doris (described in a long idylliac flashback). At the end interrogator and victim drink hard alcohol together. Later at a cocktail party Lancaster is confronted by a skeptic who laughs at his claims that the Earth is trillions of years old and that his quasi-hypnosis process can cure leukemia, and, more importantly, the core assemption that one can travel in the past of previous lives. Faced with the weakness of his science, Lancaster loses his temper and insults the stranger. They all move into the mansion of a devoted follower of the cult. Later Lancaster is shown frantically typing on a typewriter what his wife Peggy is dictating, perhaps implying that he is just the mouthpiece for his wife's theories. Freddie takes revenge on the skeptic: he walks to his apartment and beats him up. But Lancaster reprimands him for behaving like a beast. Freddie watches as Lancaster leads a dirty dance with a bunch of naked girls during a party. In private his wife threatens him and punishes him sadistically. She seems to be in total control of his mind. Freddie, at the same time, has become his guard dog, intolerant of any criticism against the boss. When the police come to arrest Lancaster for running a medical school without a license, Freddie loses his temper and attacks the cops, thus ending in the cell next to Lancaster's. Even in jail Lancaster continues the psychiatric analysis of Freddie, who runs around his cell like a caged wild animal. During a dinner the daughter tells his parents that she suspects Freddie is in love with her. Peggy tells her husband that she feels Freddie is dangerous. Freddie becomes both a subject of Lancaster's research (hitting his head against the wall in front of entranced spectators) and a devoted organizer and recruiter of the cult (wearing suit and tie). Peggy is pregnant when Lancaster gives a rousing speech to his congregation (looking a lot like Orson Welles in Citizen Kane). Freddie hasn't lost his psychotic manners: when the publisher tells him that Lancaster's book stinks, Freddie takes him outside and beats him up. Lancaster takes Freddie and others to the desert to play a game in which each person has to ride the motorcycle to a distant point as fast as possible and then come back. When it's Freddie's turn, he simply rides away. Freddie returns to his home town and looks for Doris, whom he has last seen seven years earlier when she was 16, when he told her he would be back soon. Freddie learns that Doris is married with two children. Freddie is watching a movie in a deserted theater. He falls asleep and he dreams that Lancaster is calling him on the phone and telling him that he has found out a cure for him. In the dream Lancaster is calling from England. Freddie believes the dream and travels to England. Surprisingly, the dream had told him the truth: he does find Lancaster. Or this is now happening only inside his dream. Lancaster is working in a much more glorious establishment. This time it is Peggy ho interrogates him, and she sounds hostile. She has not forgiven him for leaving them. She tells her husband in front of Freddie that she doesn't believe Freddie is serious about getting cured. Peggy leaves and Lancaster tells Freddie that he has to choose: stay forever or disappear forever. Freddie criews but then leaves. Later as he is having sex with a prostitute he recites phrases he heard from Lancaster. The last scene is the first one: Freddie lies down at the beach next to the sand woman that the sailors built. Maybe the whole film was just an invention of his troubled mind.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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