Now that "The Master" is finished storming the festival circuit, audiences can see for themselves whether or not Paul Thomas Anderson has directed the next great American masterpiece.
"It is a movie about the lure and folly of greatness that comes as close as anything I’ve seen recently to being a great movie," A.O. Scott wrote in a lengthy rave review in the New York Times. "There will be skeptics, but the cult is already forming. Count me in."
Scott is not alone among critics raving about "The Master": The film has an 85 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with reviewers like Anthony Lane of The New Yorker and Karina Longworth of The Village Voice preaching its gospel.
However, not everyone has fallen under Anderson's "Master" spell.
Writing that "The Master" is not a "masterpiece," TIME critic Richard Corliss espouses that the film doesn't forward Anderson's career. "The problem with 'The Master' is that it doesn’t extend or expand Anderson’s artistic journey," he wrote. (Corliss' review is given the cheeky headline "There Will Be Boredom," a reference to Anderson's 2007 film "There Will Be Blood.")
Calum Marsh is kinder to Anderson in his review for Slant Magazine, but does find that the film is an overall disappointment: "'The Master' inspires only mild curiosity, the feeling that something is missing."
For some critics, the "something" that's missing is answers. "Anderson doesn’t explain. Anything," critic Marshall Fine noted.
The sentiment was echoed by Claudia Puig in USA Today:
"As impeccably rendered as it is, 'The Master' is enthralling, ponderous and elusive in equal parts. Aiming for epic, it's undeniably thought-provoking, but too ambiguous to fully satisfy."
For more reviews of the film, check out the gallery below.
On reflection, and despite these cavils, we should bow to The Master, because it gives us so much to revere, starting with the image that opens the film and recurs right up to the end.
It's a film of breathtaking cinematic romanticism and near-complete denial of conventional catharsis. You might wish it gave you more in terms of comfort food pleasure, but that's not Anderson's problem.
Gorgeous to look at and an absolute feast of strong and interesting acting.
The Master is Paul Thomas Anderson with the edges sanded off, the best bits shorn down to nubs.
It's a feisty, contentious, deliberately misshapen film, designed to challenge and frustrate audiences looking for a clean resolution. Just because it's over doesn't mean it's settled.
The Master is unforgettable, but like the mercurial men at its center, the harder you try to read into it, the more it slips away into the distance.
In his first film since the 2010 performance-art stunt of "I'm Still Here," Phoenix once again digs deep to mine his character's inner torment and comes up with a mix of haunting quirks and tics.
It's a sharply written, unforgettably directed character study with brilliant performances by Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams...
I believe in the church of Paul Thomas Anderson. Fierce and ferociously funny, The Master is a great movie, the best of the year so far, and a new American classic.
Anderson is a romantic who has earned his nihilism. He clarifies nothing, but leaves us brooding on our own confusion.