Paul Thomas Anderson Headed Back to Work


Last week, the new film from writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson was announced, and already there is much buzz and speculation about the project (see the Variety article here), tentatively titled, “The Master.” Philip Seymour Hoffman will star as an intellectual who creates a religious movement in the early 1950s. The film chronicles the rise of the movement and the relationship between Hoffman’s character and a 20-something protege who begins to question the movement’s validity and truth.

Numerous articles have pointed out the similarities to the church of Scientology, which was founded around the same time the film is set, although everyone is quick to say that there is no direct correlation made in the script.

But still, people. Come on. We all know what it’s about.

Anderson’s previous film, 2007’s “There Will Be Blood,” also tackled some sensitive issues, in its treatment of both Big Business and Big Religion, with its two central characters being, in many ways, stand-ins for the corporations and televangelists we have today. That film is still being talked about as many critics and publications compile their top films and performances from the first decade of this 21st century. The Onion AV-Club, for instance, named it the No. 3 film of the past 10 years.

Anderson hasn’t turned in a final draft of the script for “The Master” yet, although most think the film will be made in the coming year. Anderson isn’t the sort of director to force a project into production until it’s ready (he took five years off before making his last film).

What sets his films apart is the way he deals with his subject matter. In all of his films, he combines fascinating subject matter — such as gambling, the porn industry, epic grief, and, of course, oil — and uses them to tell stories thick with humanity and character. By taking pieces from reality and contorting them this way, his films refuse to be reduced to simple comparisons.

I think that’s what we can expect from “The Master.” Once again he is dealing with two opposing points of view set against a large period landscape. He is a director who can work effortlessly in any time period, and here he has given himself another challenge. It’s unfair to force expectations onto a film that hasn’t even started filming, so no more speculation. I’ll just say I’m happy to hear Anderson is back to work again.

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