Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is at times as baffling as it is amazing. It's the story of a cult leader named Lancaster Dodd, whose quasi-religious group known as the Cause uses a "process" to clear up past traumas. It might sound suspiciously like Scientology, but Anderson has denied that.
No matter, the film is less about a belief than it is a fascinating portrait of the struggle between guru and disciple. Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a World War II vet who is an alcoholic. After drifting for a while, he comes under the sway of Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Freddie becomes Dodd's "guinea pig," whom he uses to develop his religion.
Anderson, whose last film was There Will Be Blood, seems to be fascinated with megalomaniacs. Freddie and Dodd are both that, in their way, but The Master doesn't quite have the overall focus that Blood had. As usual, though, the director draws outstanding performances from his cast, with Phoenix, Hoffman and Amy Adams, as one of Dodd's wives, all nominated for Oscars.
The Master retails for $29.98 or $39.99 Blu-ray.
These DVDs were also released this week (when two prices are listed, the second is for Blu-ray):
New films: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 ($30.98, $39.99); Holy Motors ($19.95, $39.95); Chasing Mavericks ($22.98, $29.99); Africa ($29.98, $34.98); How to Survive a Plague ($24.98).
Television: Law & Order: The 12th Year ($36.98); The Client List: The Complete First Season ($45.99).
Older films: The Hudsucker Proxy ($21.95 Blu-ray); Sansho the Bailiff: The Criterion Collection ($39.95 Blu-ray).