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Paul Thomas Anderson Secretly Premieres ‘The Master’ In Santa Monica; First Reactions Are Largely Wildly Positive

Paul Thomas Anderson Secretly Premieres 'The Master' In Santa Monica; First Reactions Are Largely Wildly Positive

You have to hand it to Paul Thomas Anderson. Five years ago, the director unveiled his last film, “There Will Be Blood,” as a surprise at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, skipping the established festival circuit entirely for a film that turned out to be the best received of 2007. It seemed, briefly, that his follow-up, “The Master,” might have a more conventional release strategy for an awards-type film, with news leaking out that the film was set to premiere at Venice before going on to TIFF, perhaps suggesting a more conventional type of marketing push from distributors The Weinstein Company.

But trust Anderson to pull a surprise somewhere down the line. Rather than a glitzy red carpet premiere at an international festival, the first public screening of “The Master” took place last night, unannounced, after an American Cinematheque screening of Stanley Kubrick‘s “The Shining” at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica, CA. Projected in Anderson’s preferred format of 70mm, almost no one knew that it was happening in advance, but word soon leaked out to In Contention, among others.

It’s a pretty great way of letting the film get its time in the festival sun and yet still zag where some expected it to zig, and we wonder if similar secret screenings might take place in the run up to the film’s opening date on September 14th. Inevitably, of course, word started to leak out about the film on Twitter from those lucky so-and-sos who were there: we’ve rounded up the reactions, so far, which seem to be pretty positive, from breathless raves to a little more guarded, but still enthusiastic. Have a look below, and we’ll update when more come in.

@michaelwhittle  “Possibly the best film watching experience I’ve ever had. #THEMASTER70MM”

@TotallySketch (Michael Gallagher) “Just saw ‘The Master’. A movie has never made me feel quite like this one did. I can’t describe it or even rate it. I am speechless.”

@aaldere1 (Andrew P Alderete, “The Social Network” producer Dana Brunetti‘s assistant) “The Master was amazing. Oscars all over this one.”

@LoganDoe  “@prfessorbigsock Hoffman is one of the finest actors alive. The Master is (more) proof. #themaster”

@pillowfightin “@cigsandredvines Saw The Master in 70mm at the Aero Santa Monica. Surprise screening after The Shining. Its like nothing yvever seen before.”

@jessecrall “The Master: B+ hazy, meandering story with beautiful staging and headed by Phoenix’s brilliant, year’s-best performance. @kristapley”

@Super_Matts “THE MASTER is…interesting…I’ll be thinking about it for days #THEMASTER70MM J Phoenix and P S Hoffman are out of this world”

@DubstepElitist “duuuuuude, the master was goooooooooood”

And the most extensive reaction so far comes from 16-year-old cinephile Victor Escobar: his tweets after the film can be found below.

“@scottEweinberg Of course! Don’t want to say more than a few words about it but it is an all around excellent film.”

“@MattMustin @scottEweinberg No doubt about it. I’ve yet to see one bad PSH performance but this one may be his best.”

“@prfessorbigsock 2hrs 10 min. Will get nods for Picture. Good chance of winning original screenplay and acting awards.”

“@TheDaltonator If it were me, I’d put them both in the Best Actor category but if one them is getting the supporting nod, its Hoffman.”

“@GusCruz At winning? No. It will have its fair share of detractors and its not a “safe” choice.”

“If you guys can, see The Master in 70 mm. Looked gorgeous and its the way P.T Anderson wants you to see it. “

Jeff Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere also has a source, “bobfilm,” who was there last night, and sent along a reaction, which perhaps suggest that it may not be terribly accessible, but that Phoenix is particularly good.

“I’m still digesting everything I saw, but it was pretty amazing. It was like a strange fever dream. [But] not audience friendly AT ALL. An ambiguous ending and not one likable character. And without any ‘milkshake’ lines, it probably won’t have the breakthrough that There Will Be Blood had… There are three or four scenes between Phoenix and Hoffman that are barn burners. It also containts the best work Amy Adams has ever done… Phoenix WILL win Best Actor unless Daniel Day Lewis blows us away with [his] Lincoln performance. This is Raging Bull territory for him. Believe it or not, his performance is stranger than that fake doc he made. The only way I can describe him is ‘animalistic.’ (I think the Master title refers to more of a dog and his master. At least that was the vibe I got).. The style feels like Terrence Malick by way of There Will Be Blood.”

Exciting stuff. “The Master” will, it would seem, officially premiere in Venice on September 1st before heading to Toronto, and then rolling out in limited release on September 14th.

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THERE WILL BE BLOOD premiered at the Berlin Film Festival!


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I am what you would call a fanboy I guess (I would call it a fan- albeit a huge fan) and I think Anderson can do no wrong. But I read a very early draft of the screenplay, with no real scenes of him in the navy at all, but the rest seems to be there in the trailer, but I do remember thinking after I read it something was missing, almost more like Punch Drunk Love in the way it's not huge in it's scope. It is only about the very beginning of the "Cause" and doesn't really get into it too much. And a film about such a topic you would think would be a little epic in the way of "There Will Be Blood" I hope it's amazing, and I know I am going to love it no matter what, but I'm afraid others might be let down and if the rewrite doesn't fill in whatever I felt was missing. Which I am not sure what that was.


This has created quite the reaction online! Some call it a masterpiece and others say something is missing from the finished film. I think this might be one those films that will some will "get", and some will completely hate…. Like TWBB this could be a classic in a few years!


Scott and others are flinging the term "fanboy" around too haphazardly. Fanboys are people who can't accept that you might not be as impressed with a film, band, game, etc. as they are and lash out. This combativeness is an odd phenomenon, no doubt. But so is being upset that others feel positively about something they saw. Your writing off those reviews as idolatry is even more presumptuous than the attitudes you are railing against.


Wow. Film fans huh? You all sound extremely fun to watch films with. I like that supposed "cinephiles" use the insult "fanboys" as well. You know what fanboys were 10 years ago? Fans. That's it. Now it's not cool to really enjoy something? Anywho, I'm excited to see The Master, really excited. We have a few directors like PTA left. Ones that actually care about you checkin out his film in the proper format, in the right setting. I'm sure you'll put a cynical spin on that so have at film buffs.


Thank you, Scott, I posted your comments on imdb's boards where there are topics on there already declaring, sight unseen, that The Master is the greatest film of all time. How dumb has our culture gotten?


Watching the movie last night, I was reminded of something that happened 40 years ago, when Coppola was being pressured to bring in GODFATHER at a "reasonable" length. He finally got it down to just over two hours and showed it to Robert Evans. When it was over, Evans said, "You've shown me a great trailer. Now show me a great movie." And Coppola went back and restored everything he'd cut. I had the same feeling here. The performances, period look and cinematography are wonderful, but it feels like 85% of a great movie, with the other 15% still in the cutting room. Subplots are set up and then discarded. Characters turn up without any sort of introduction. Motivations are frequently abrupt and unjustified (granted this last might be deliberate). And sorry, but people didn't sling "fuck" around so freely in the 1950s–especially in front of women. I just wish he and the editor could go back and take one more pass at it, but obviously there's no time. Still very worth seeing, but not what it might've been.


Fanboys. Sheesh.

The film is meandering, shallow, pointless and really not good. It's visually stunning- a gorgeous film to look at but (and this is neither old fashioned nor passe) I challenge anyone else there last night to describe why this is worthy of any award outside of cinematography. Phoenix is a snarling one dimensional freak, PSH is a place holder and every other piece of talent is wasted. The script, if one really exists, may have been written by a (possibly drunk) 10 year old who was assigned a paper on what the first year of Scientology may have looked like. With much instruction to improvise. This is a smart way to create positive propaganda but eventually cooler (smarter) heads will prevail and see this for what it is. B-A-D.


I don't know about you guys, but the only reactions I trust are those from DubstepElitist.

oogle monster

Looks like it's more Hoffman's movie than Phoenix? Hmmm. Also, I don't trust a 16 year old
"cinephile" that hasn't seen TWBB. Boy, please!


I like hyperbole it's fun


Ahhhhh! I was in Santa Monica last night and I missed this


lol @ that insufferable '16 year old cinephile' slingin Oscar talk like he's an obnoxious assistant at a talent agency.


So it won't be at Venice Film Festival. Not in competition anyway, it would be an infringement of the rules (world premieres only). It still may screen out of competition but it seems unlikely.


This article is a good indicator that the entire film industry awards system, whether they're the Oscars, Golden Globes, major festivals like Toronto or Sundance, the Independent Spirit Awards, etc., are pre-determined and therefore not at all important. Even before this film was shown publicly, people were saying that it's going to be nominated for awards, that it was going to be the "best film of the year," along with all of the other platitudes lobbed at end-of-year movies that seem to be taylored and produced for the sole purpose of garnering awards and prestigious accolades.

I get the feeling that the "Tweets" quoted in the article were written by people who had already made up their minds that the Master would be a "great film," or "one of the year's best" before they saw even so much as a trailer.

The press, film blogs, and reviewers are also guilty of casting certain films with praise before they're even released publicly by arbitrarily setting certain films aside forlevels of prestige based on the director, the performer, and most often, based on the ad campaigns launched by the studios. This predetermination of "greatness" is so much worse when the movie hasn't even been released. Jeff Wells in the above article points out the possibility that Daniel Day Lewis' performance of Abe Lincoln is already Oscar-worthy, yet a trailer hasn't even been released.

Where is the fun in discovering good films, if you've already determined which movies are going to be great, when you haven't even watched them?

The Master looks like an interesting film, based on the trailer (and not at all based on the platitudes of greatness attributed by the PT Anderson fanboys), but I will hold off making an opnion until I actually see it. Whenever I watch a PT Anderson movie, one of my first thoughts is that I could be watching a Robert Altman movie, or, in the case of There Will be Blood, a John Huston movie, and it would be so much better.

I am so sick of blind fanboy love.


UGH I still have to wait until november!!


I cant wait for this movie. great for Joaquin. ugh Amy Adams will be nominated and lose again. I can't.


Weeping at the reactions! ALL THE AWARDS


Oh boy. I guess I'll be the first to say it: Will this play the AFI Silver in 70mm during their Kubrick retrospective? The Shining is playing Aug 31 and the next 70mm screening is 2001 on Sept 2… This theater has already been bandied about by some as a likely spot for The Master to play in 70mm during its actual theatrical run

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