Have you seen any of those recent lists counting down the best films of the past decade? Yeah, I know you’re upset that Battlefield Earth didn’t make the cut on any of them, but wait until you find out what’s certain to be included in the top ten for the tens: Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, a film that seems like it will be a scathing look at the life of L. Ron Hubbard and the great religion he founded.
How do I know this movie, which hasn’t even been completely scripted, let alone produced, will be a definite contender for the best of the next decade? Because Anderson’s movies are always on these lists. The recent countdowns for the aughts all place There Will Be Blood and Punch-Drunk Love rather high, and neither of them even featured Philip Seymour Hoffman in the lead, as The Master will.
And how do I know it’s about Scientology when Variety makes a point to say that it isn’t? Well, most of the blogs seem to agree that such a claim has only been made in order to throw Hollywood off. Plus, just from reading the synopsis it sounds as obviously about Hubbard as Primary Colors was about Bill Clinton and as The Dark Knight was about Dick Cheney. So hopefully everyone at Universal will see through P.T.’s ruse and put a stop to this thing.
Here’s what those film blogs have to say about The Master (warning: potential movie spoilers and negative words about Scientology):
Anderson’s working on a script tentatively called The Master, about a ’50s intellectual who becomes a spiritual leader, and his relationship with a younger protégé. The role of the younger man has yet to be cast, but Anderson has his old buddy Philip Seymour Hoffman on board to play L. Ron Hubb… er, The Master.
It doesn’t take an idiot to see that the film is a veiled reference to Scientology, which also “coincidentally” began in 1952. According to the article, the film will not so much criticize the religion as much as it will call into question the need for people to believe in a higher being (expect “Religion is the opiate of the people” to be mentioned at least once). No matter what efforts they take to dampen controversy, however, don’t expect Tom Cruise or John Travolta to hop on as executive producers. They are probably too busy fighting off Xenu’s evil forces anyway.
Like most Paul Thomas Anderson films, that sounds really good, Variety. Just so long as it doesn’t offend any of my radical Scientology beliefs. Speaking of which, friends, have you guys heard about the best religion whose beliefs can be summarized with the phrase “aliens things”? It’s pretty awesome. I’ll have to get you a guest pass to my energy structure some time.
Anderson is known for his cynical approach when it comes to organized religion, which was apparent in There Will Be Blood. This time around he seems to be targeting more contemporary followings such as Scientology and Mormonism, which are newbies as compared to Christianity and Judaism.
We wonder if, to any degree, the idea for Master was inspired by Anderson’s friendship with Jeremy Blake, the visual artist with whom he collaborated on 2002’s Punch Drunk Love. As you’ll recall, Blake and girlfriend Theresa Duncan took their own lives in 2007 under mysterious circumstances, with Duncan alleging they’d been harassed by Scientologists after the couple’s friend Beck told them he was thinking about leaving the religion (Beck, of course, denied this). So we guess we probably shouldn’t look for “Devil’s Haircut” on The Master’s soundtrack.
I thought the most insightful thing about Anderson’s cynical treatment of religion in his last movie was the way the priest got beat to death with a bowling pin. Suck on that one, Scopes monkey trial. I’m not so much anti-religion as I am pro-movie violence, and holy God did I squeal like a schoolgirl during that scene.
Anderson is apparently interested in delving into the human need for god-like figures and unexplainable higher beings, as well as how religious devotion forms out of beliefs and spiritual fulfillment. While the cult movement connection (specifically with Scientology) is obvious, I’m inclined to believe PTA will deliver a more nuanced and decidedly ambiguous look at these ideas. The brilliance of There Will Be Blood partly lies in its ability to read as a criticism of so many things (organized religion, capitalism…) yet none of the characters exist as simple 1:1 allegorical figures. It’s a complexity I hope PTA can achieve again.
Whether [Variety’s disclosure is] simply publicity-speak to not piss-off half of Hollywood and the TWILIGHT community will remain to be seen. But good GOD do I hope this film pisses somebody off. Controversy! Fun!