Last night at the premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson’s film “The Master,” every seat of the Ziegfeld Theater - perhaps the largest single-screen theater in the country -was filled. This is impressive considering the Weinstein Company only sent out invitations to the premiere five days ago.
Mr. Anderson shot the film in 65mm but it is projected at 70mm film, which is the format used by IMAX screens. The movie is visually breathtaking, an effect you don’t see anymore now that movies are shot digitally. Images from the film like the crimson blue of the ocean, and the white bubbling foam in the wake of a ship will stay in your mind. The only way to see the movie is on a 70mm widescreen like the Ziegfeld when it opens Friday.
“The Master” stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as the charismatic leader of a cult, and Joaquin Phoenix plays an alcoholic drifter, who spent time in the Navy during WWII, and returns physically and emotionally wrecked, with no purpose or job. Hoffman’s character catches him up in his cult. His protege is an acolyte and prodigal son but impossible to be controlled.
At the Venice Film Festival, Mr. Anderson received the Silver Lion for best director and Mr. Phoenix and Mr. Hoffman shared the Best Actor prize. The much-discussed film has also received accolades at the Toronto Film Festival.
Since Mr. Anderson started making the film there have been rumors floating around that the Hoffman character is based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. This has only amped up the chatter surrounding the film.
Although we are sorry to say there were no Scientologists picketing outside the Ziegfeld last night, we did see some famous faces, including Fisher Stevens, D.A. Pennebaker with his filmmaker wife Chris Hegedus, filmmaker Albert Maysles and Bob Balaban.
Only Amy Adams, who plays the Lady Macbeth-like wife of Hoffman’s character, walked the red carpet as did producer Harvey Weinstein. Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Phoenix have been making the festival circuit, and Mr. Anderson has been appearing at sneak pop-up screenings all over the country.
This is Mr. Anderson’s first film since “There Will Be Blood” in 2007, which was nominated for eight Oscars, including for best writing and directing for Mr. Anderson. Daniel Day-Lewis, who starred in the film, took home the best acting Oscar.
In Mr. Phoenix’s last film in 2010, he looked like he lost it in Casey Affleck’s “I’m Still Here,” a supposed documentary, where he announced he was retiring from films to devote himself to his music. In “The Master,” Mr. Phoenix’s performance is feral and raw, and he’s even better than he was in “Walk the Line” in 2006, where his portrayal of Johnny Cash got him a best Oscar nod.
And no one is better at collecting Oscars than Harvey Weinstein. Two years in a row Weinstein pictures have received best picture Oscars as well as little gold statues for the leads; in 2010 for “The King’s Speech” and for star Colin Firth and last year for “The Artist” and for Jean DuJardin.