Movie trailer day continues with a curious first glimpse at Paul Thomas Anderson's long-in-the-works The Master, a film about an American religion/cult founded in the confusing aftermath of World War II that has long been referred to as Anderson's "Scientology movie."
We see nothing relating to any religion in this trailer. Instead it's simply Joaquin Phoenix — affecting a speaking style that's almost like a menacing Steve Brule — talking to some sort of military superior, who is asking him about fighting, drinking, and some sort of "episode" he recently had. That's all interspersed with footage of WWII-era sailors on a beach, presumably one in the paradise-turned-hell of the South Pacific. We know from brief synopses of the movie that have popped up that Phoenix will play a shiftless drifter who becomes the right-hand man to Philip Seymour Hoffman's religious leader, so it's interesting that this trailer showcases Phoenix instead of Hoffman's presumably more charismatic character. Maybe they're keeping him secret because he's just too good to spoil right now.
Whatever the reason, the trailer is no less intriguing for only showing us Phoenix. It's maybe even more so? The trailer in no way hints at the Scientology-ish plot, but does evoke enough of a feeling of confusion and mental angst to lay the groundwork for a story of religious fervor, delusion, and a particularly American kind of existential rootlessness. All that in a short clip, thanks to Phoenix's halting delivery, Johnny Greenwood's insisting music, and that pretty, but washed-out and tired-looking camerawork. Interestingly, this is Paul Thomas Anderson's first movie without his trusty cinematographer Robert Elswit, and, impressive cinematography being such a hallmark of PTA's movies, it will be interesting to see how Anderson fares without him.
The Master comes out in October, which suddenly feels very far away. Anderson turned an interesting filmmaking corner with his last feature, the crisply terrifying rumination on American greed and innovation There Will Be Blood, and we have a feeling, granted based on very little evidence, that The Master will continue in that fascinating vein. We guess you could call it faith.