The Master (2012): Chewing this over since Friday. If you’ve heard it’s not really about Scientology, that’s both true and not true; it’s fundamentally not about that, but it sure spends a lot of time on it.
It opens with another really exciting stretch of pure cinema like They Will be Blood, but isn’t as clear as that movie, in the end— the character goals are never really clearly defined, the way “get the oil out of the ground” holds Blood together. Which … it’s still constantly watchable, and exciting on a filmmaking level, as you’d expect (though I guess he couldn’t move the camera as much as you might want out of a PTA movie— I think I read the camera was really big or something, but that was something I noticed more after than during)— but it’s much less audience-friendly, than Blood, as a result of that.
I guess I’ll admit I was hoping for more palace intrigue as I would imagine there was a bit of that going on at the inception of Scientology— this hints that there was, but only hints. Its presentation of Scientology’s origins is pretty toothless, I think…? It’s much more about Man’s Struggle to Suppress his Base Carnal Impulses, than anything as specific to history as what I think I had in my head going in. This is more Blood’s “journey of the fucked-up man; oh wait shit we are that man” than Boogie Nights’s “let’s dig into what kind of people are in this world; oh wait shit my genitalia is also very large what will become of me???”, if you will.
It may merit more than one viewing though because at least one scene I had accepted as reality, a key turning-point moment plot-wise near the end, the person I saw it with insisted was a dream sequence (which I did not catch at all), raising whether other sequences were similarly dream sequences and which, when, how.