27 September 2012

FOLLOWING THE LEADER

Is it possible to talk about The Master without talking about the whole conversation surrounding The Master, sucking up nearly all the oxygen in the cinephile community this past week? Not for me, I find, and I feel sorry about that: we're supposed to let movies speak for themselves, not filtered through the things we've heard other people say about them. But the more I tried to do that, the more daft it seemed. This is, I suspect, a problem that would only be faced by the critic who didn't particularly respond to The Master, as I did not; but then, I have a history of not responding to the work of filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson. But not-responding seems particularly evil of one in the face of the kind of chatter going on around the movie, where it's held to be some sort of unbelievably challenging and deep and ambiguous piece of cinema.

I don't want to commit the sin of accusing people who loved the film of being liars; clearly, something speaks to them that I simply do not see on any level whatsoever, and I'm glad for them - so "deep", then, is a matter of personal opinion. I do think, though, that calling The Master "ambiguous" and "challenging", as has been done, says more about the awful place of contemporary filmmaking; because to me, it seems awfully straightforward, with nary an ambiguous bone in its body until the very last shot, which is inscrutable. Certified Copy, with characters whose identity is purposefully withheld, is ambiguous; Stalker, drenched in symbolism that may or may not also be literal, is challenging. The Master has a lot of ellipses in its plot, and does not hold anyone's hand as it moves through its plot, but that is a different thing - that merely demands that you pay attention, something so few American movies do anymore that when one comes along that actually expects an audience of intelligent, thinking people, we are, as a culture, wholly befuddled by it.

But, in fact, there's a hell of a lot that the film tells us, in a perfectly straightforward manner: Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, and suffers from what hadn't yet been given the name of post-traumatic stress disorder. To deal with it, he drinks: alcohol, but also a lot of other substances, wherever he can get them, including paint thinner and engine lubricant. This drinking problem, combined with the PTSD, has made it virtually impossible for him to relate to other people, and he fails his way across the country, until in 1950, one of his nightmare concoctions poisons a man in Salinas. Stowing on a passing yacht, he falls into the circle of the boisterous Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the founder of a pseudoscientific, New Agey self-help program called The Cause. Dodd and Quell fascinate one another, and the Master, as he too happily permits himself to be called by acolytes of The Cause, decides that he will fix this broken man who never really gives any indication that he wants to be fixed, or can remember far enough back that he knows what "fixed" even means.

The crux of the movie is the relationship between these two men, and it is, I suppose "ambiguous", insofar as there is no scene where Quell pipes up from the corner, "You know, Master, I think the time has come for me to explain exactly why I drink and am defensive and indeed willfully resistant to improving myself", to which Dodd reponds, "Good, and once you have done that, allow me to describe why I'm willing to set aside such a huge portion of my personal energy to working with you" (though actually, this latter point almost is clarified explicitly: saving an unsalvageable man would be the feather in Dodd's cap and the best proof of The Cause's efficacy). I have a hard time believing that there exists anyone who thinks that such a scene would not be to the film's detriment; but it doesn't actually take such a scene for us to start to put together the ingredients of the Quell/Dodd dynamic: the security it offers, the chance for power, a little bit of surrogate father/son going on, just a dash of subdued but unmissable homoeroticism.

To the degree that any of this is hard to follow, that is largely because Anderson wants it to be, and here we wade right into it. I am no real fan of the man's work - There Will Be Blood is a miscast Paul Dano away from being a masterpiece, and Hard Eight is one of the best of the mid-'90s character-driven indies, but his three intermediary films leave me various shades of cold - and if I wanted to be snippy & not engage with the work at all, I'd accuse The Master of being a movie made by a man who took the Kubrick comparisons too much to heart, and has made the film he perceives A Great Filmmaker would have made, resulting in all sorts of self-aware narrative disjunctions and deliberately unfriendly gestures, a self-conscious "look how smart I am" movie.

But I do not want to be snippy.

For one thing, The Master is a glorious work of technique: starting with its extraordinary 65mm cinematography by the fairly green Mihai Malaimare (which, having seen a digital projection, I feel ill-equipped to judge), which is both beautiful and intense, focused on more lingering, assaultive close-up shots than I thought American movies knew how to do anymore, Phoenix's or Hoffman's or Amy Adams's (as Dodd's wife, collaborator and final arbiter of what happens in his self-help empire, master to the Master) faces filling up the screen with all their tiny facial gestures and worn skin. The editing does a superb job of relating disconnected moments while breaking connected moments into discrete chunks, boggling continuity in a way that serves the narrative not at all, but effectively communicates Quell's sense of removal and alienation. Johnny Greenwood's is fantastic, manipulating tones in a way that feels extraordinarily well-suited to the post-war modernism of the film's setting, while also providing a flexible but steady emotional spine to the drama. And on, and on - the film is assembled perfectly, almost as perfectly as I can imagine.

And that's enough to give it a recommendation - we do like good technique around these parts - but not enough to answer the question that, crucially, goes not only unanswered but unasked: why are we bothering to watch The Master? I am sincerely puzzled by this, more than all of the film's other "ambiguities" put together. On paper, there's a lot that could by said by this scenario - on paper, the film is saying it - it could explore the psychic dislocation of the American male in the years after World War II; it could study the sociology behind the self-help movements that began around that time, partially in response to that same dislocation; it could be a critical but not condemnatory look at the founding of the disproportionately influential cult of Scientology that sort of forms the inspiration for The Cause (The Master is "about" Scientology to roughly the same extent that Citizen Kane is "about" William Randolph Hearst); it could examine the appeal of pseudoscientific philosophy in the middle of what was meant to be the most rational century of human history. Hell, it could be a simple character exploration about the relationship between two men, as their relative power to one another shifts over time. And it does of all these things, sort of, insofar as those ideas are on the table; but it does nothing with them. Occasionally, there is an odd scene here or that with a piercing truth to it: for example, Dodd's interrogation of Quell, a one-on-one acting marathon made up almost entirely of uncomfortably tight close-ups and two shatteringly great performances (it's the only moment in Hoffman's performance that I really liked; Phoenix is terrific throughout), resulting in the most severe and easily the best scene in the movie. Or the slow, teasing way that we discover Adams's Peggy Dodd is just as controlling and arrogant as her husband.

But for the most part, the film just sits there, demanding that we do all of the work to uncover... aye, uncover what? Two hours and seventeen minutes go by, and I wait for the moment that's going to make me care about any of them; and while it would appear, from outside evidence, that I did something "wrong" to not see any of that, I certainly don't feel like I did. Just an example of emphatically Not Being On The Same Page As The Filmmaker, maybe, because for all that the film is perfectly-mounted, it is also perfectly uncompelling, keeping whatever ideas it has about all the sociological and psychological forces it observes locked firmly in its handsome skull.

8/10 (but heading with stately grandeur towards a 7, the longer I think about it)

7/10 (I thought about it)

27 comments:

Colin said...

This is exactly everything I thought about this movie. I'm glad someone else had the same reaction.

KingKubrick said...

I have yet to see the movie but I have to mention I just watched Stalker for the first time last Saturday and it's bar none one of the best science fictions every made. I've begun a Tarkovsky retrospective since seeing The Mirror so high on the director's Sight and Sound poll. I'd love to read your thoughts on Stalker.

PTA's great and everything but still doesn't hold a candle to Tarkovsky.

Mysterious F. said...

All PTA movies are like this as far as I am concerned. He has too many ideas, he's too ambitious to consider how to best convey any of them, he's too busy showing off how great he thinks he is, and it's all just a lot of smoke and mirrors and teasing to no real purpose. His movies are interesting, but they're not good.

Zev Valancy said...

Two thoughts (not having seen the film):

1) I've definitely noticed movies being praised/condemned for ambiguity that weren't that ambiguous at all. The two that come to mind are "Inception" and "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy". Both required you to pay attention, but neither left out anything you needed to follow along, or even hid it.

2) The fact that this film is in 65mm has been widely discussed/hyped. Can someone explain to this technique-ignorant man why it's in 65 instead of 70? I've never heard of that particular format before, and it doesn't fit the usual "each size is twice the previous one" format. Is this just an extra-special secret film width?

Surly Duff said...

I do think, though, that calling The Master "ambiguous" and "challenging", as has been done, says more about the awful place of contemporary filmmaking;
Frankly, I think the same critique can be applied to contemporary film criticism. In my opinion, too many critics use "challenging" or "ambiguous", without any requisite explanation as to why the film is challenging, as simple stand-ins for more critical discussion of a film.

I felt about this film as I have about all of his films. It has some components, shots, and acting that are phenomenal while ultimately the movie leaves me disappointed in the end.

As a complete aside, almost every single time I see Paul Thomas Anderson's name on a film, I confuse him with Paul W.S. Anderson. I then wonder why the hell actors like Phoenix and Hoffman have any interest in working with the guy who Resident Evil and Alien V Predator. However, I would definitely enjoy an Alien v Predator movie starring Phoenix and Hoffman immensely more than I did the real version of that film.

Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

This "yes, and?" reaction sounds like how I felt after seeing There Will Be Blood. Yes! This film is brilliantly made in every aspect! But...was there supposed to be some sort of POINT to this?

Still wanna see this new one, though.

RickR said...

@Zev- 65MM is the stock you use to shoot films for 70MM release. Release prints needed to be a touch wider to accommodate the magnetic striping for six-channel stereo sound, hence 70MM.

(Modern films no longer use magnetic (analog) stereo sound, alas, so the width disparity is just legacy. Camera shoot 65MM, projectors project 70MM.)

Zev Valancy said...

RickR--That makes sense. Thanks so much for the clarification. What was the last movie to be done in 65/70mm? I know it's rare, but how rare is it?

GeoX--I had the EXACT same reaction to TWBB. I thought it was a combination of seeing it on at TV and being a bad movie-watcher. So glad I'm not alone in that.

RickR said...

Zev- This gives a good overview:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_70_mm_films

KingKubrick said...

Let me pump the brakes on the no point to There Will Be Blood train. What I interpret the film as a statement on how the excess of American style capitalism dehumanizes those who partake in it. Plainview's unfettered greed causes him to lose all his familial ties and his humanity (the penultimate and final scene both involve Plainview destroying his final connections to humanity). Like people said of PTA's work above, I don't even think this is a very subtle theme. It's more text than subtext in the film. It has as much of a point Citizen Kane has a point, both are statements on the lost of humanity that befalls a man who succeeds at the expense of others.

Tim said...

10 comments without a single defense of the movie? Was not expecting to see that when I logged in. Perhaps we are already in the backlash stage.

Anyway, thanks all for chiming in; I would try to mount a defense of TWBB, but KingKubrick said most of what I would say (plus, maybe, I'd claim that Day-Lewis's monumentally overcooked performance is its own justification), and I am not at this second in time inclined to feel overly charitable to PTA.

Still planning to see the 70mm print when it returns to Chicago, because I am that kind of film geek, and I honestly think it might make me look on the film a bit more kindly, because I am that kind of film geek also.

Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

What I interpret the film as a statement on how the excess of American style capitalism dehumanizes those who partake in it. Plainview's unfettered greed causes him to lose all his familial ties and his humanity

You say that, and I think that this probably was the goal, but it just doesn't work for me, simply because Plainview is an utter cipher from first to last. Is he being dehumanized? As far as I can see, he starts the film as a hollow man, and ends it that way. I see no evidence that he's actually corrupted or changed in any way over the course of the proceedings. Not that Day-Lewis's performance isn't arresting as anything, but you can't dehumanize when there was no humanity there in the first place.

KingKubrick said...

@ harder faster

Well if Day-Lewis performance doesn't work for you then the film would probably be a wash. However, I hardly found Plainview to be a cipher. The array of emotions he goes through doing the baptism scene is staggering. Secondly, I found his relationship with his son HW to be the crux of the film. There are many instances where Plainview shows affection for him until HW becomes deaf and is no longer a valuable commodity to Plainview's oil enterprise. Plainview sending HW off to boarding school so he doesn't have to deal with the problem is the beginning of his descent into inhumanity. Which is why I always had a problem with the final scene. I view it as a bizarre epilogue that doesn't really fit with rest of the picture. The movie is about Daniel and HW. The fact PTA ends it with some bizarre allegorical representation of the battle between commerce and religion strikes me as a poor choice.

@ Tim,
I find the backlash discouraging because after The Dark Knight Rises I don't think I can handle another much hyped movie from one of my favorite directors failing miserably.

Danton said...

I think you guys are really selling PTA short here. Now I haven't seen "The Master" yet so I can't defend it. But I will say this about "There Will Be Blood": it's one of the best portraits we have of the dynamic but ultimately sterile narcissism which gave us the American Century.

BTW, Plainview doesn't abandon HW because of his accident. Rather Plainview thinks he has finally found a companion who is related to him by blood (an ironic twist on the "blood" of the title). But Plainview is doomed to be alone because, as he himself puts it, "I just want to make enough money so I can get away from all these people". In the end, the only character he is left with at the end is his shadow, Sunday. Psychologically speaking they're two sides of the same coin.

Faster, Harder, More Challenging GeoX said...

Did I say Day-Lewis's performance didn't work for me? I did not. In fact, I said the opposite of that.

I see what y'all are saying, but I remain unconvinced. It's conceivable that the film's too subtle for me; on the other hand, it's also conceivable that the fact that it IS so impressive means that you tend to read more into it than is actually there.

KingKubrick said...

@ fast, Harder
You said Plainview was a cipher and Day-Lewis was plainly trying not to depict him as such so I assumed that you meant his performance didn't work for you. I didn't mean to put words in your mouth. Meh, I guess different strokes for different folks.

@ Danton,
I recognize the parallels PTA was trying to draw between Eli and Daniel but, kind of how Faster Harder responded to the movie as a whole, I don't think it had much depth and this aspect didn't work nearly as well for me as Daniel's and HW's story. Also, I believe Daniel sent HW because he became deaf and also because Daniel believed had someone to take HW's place as a front for the family business.

NicksFlickPicks said...

Bravo, bravo, bravo to this whole piece. Makes my (eventual? never-to-be-written?) review harder, but please know we're on the same page. Loved this.

David Greenwood said...

There Will Be Blood doesn't really work if it's treated as some enormous allegory for God or Capitalism or what have you. I can't think of any kind of big-issue reading of the flick that adds anything to it, and given Anderson's tendency to make films about people rather than issues, I think that looking for a treatise on the American Experience is a fool's errand.

In my opinion, the movie works as a character study of a crazy person. Plainview has a crippling social defect, which is that he's incapable of seeing the good in humankind, including himself. This means that he instinctively doesn't trust anyone he meets, despite clearly wanting to in those rare moments when he lets his mask slip. This has rendered him a rather pathetic shell of a man, but in the oil business he can succeed to a point because it requires you to use people as tools.

Of course, this is also why he's alone, estranged from his family, and abusive to his "son". He's only as nice to people as he feels he needs to be to get something from them. The one relationship in the film in which he does decide to open himself up to someone does not work out very well at all, and basically leads to his downfall.

The film is also fascinating on the level of an alpha male power struggle. I love the way that Daniel uses the declarative voice as a weapon to control people. He doesn't say "If I said I was an oilman, I think you'd agree". He says "When I say I am an oilman you will agree". He says it, therefore it is so. This occurs throughout the film. When Eli Sunday does the same thing to him ("I will bless the well", etc.), he has marked himself as fresh meat to be devoured. When H.W. loses his hearing, Daniel gives up on him because his voice now has no effect. The very title of the film is "There Will Be Blood", and of course there is.

On that note, I don't think Anderson ends the film with a big allegorical showdown between commerce and religion. I think it's a simple as what you see on screen. Throughout the film, Eli tries to beat Daniel at his own game of domination, but at the end of the day Daniel is more willing to get his hands dirty. We see it earlier, when Eli approaches him only to be brutally smacked down into the dirt, and we see it here to even greater effect. You don't tangle with someone who has completely lost their bloody mind.

On another level, I also enjoy seeing it as Daniel simply being to big for his own movie and hijacking it. He writes his own ending, and is happy with it. I think what troubles some viewers is that on some level we WANT to see the preacher get creamed.

People say "What's the point?". I think it's that there are people like Daniel in the world, and TWBB allows us to understand them a little better.

David Greenwood said...

Well, since nobody's bothered to defend "The Master" up to this point, I might as well give it a shot.

"The Master" is a perfectly fine film, provided you're already in the cult of PTA (ironic, I know). As usual, it makes no effort to reach out to anyone but Paul Thomas Anderson: he constructs these elegant little puzzle boxes of films, putting them on a little pedestal for his own enjoyment, and framing them with showoffy little title cards. I don't really consider this a weakness or a strength, just an audience limiter.

And I must complain about the fact that PTA still cannot seem to write women. TWBB had no significant female characters, and the only significant female character in The Master only exists as a symbol of the oppression of marriage. Not exactly progressive. (Magnolia had a few decent females, but nobody in that film was a particularly complex character anyway).

But as member of the cult, I got exactly what I wanted. And I do think the movie has a point or two, just that it's nowhere near as earth shattering as people seem to want.

1) I think it's a nostalgic love letter to post-war, pre-1968 America, coupled with an acknowledgement that you really can't go home again, and the ugly undercurrents that everyone liked to ignore were still very real.

2) I also think it's a meditation on many men's duelling desires for freedom and the comfort of family. Dodd and Quell both confront this conundrum at the same time on different scales. Quell likes the comforting embrace of The Cause, but is unwilling to completely submit to it's demands on his life. Dodd is The Master in name only, addicted to adoration and under the thumb of his controlling wife, part of him longing for the freedom that Quell seems to possess.

And I do think the two of them love each other, not sexually but emotionally (certainly more than Dodd loves his wife). They each want what the other represents, or at least what they think the other represents.

It's a rich picture, but again, if you're not Anderson's wavelength he doesn't much care. As a card carrying member of The Cause, I had a good time. Is it the best movie of the year? Fuck no (I thought that was "Dredd", incidentally). But it's pretty good.

Tim said...

As defenses go, I have to say that you've mentioned a whole lot of flaws in the movie ;)

FWIW, I saw it again on 70mm a couple weeks ago (Oscar weekend, in fact), and if nothing else, it's unquestionably a great exploration of post-WWII malaise, and the surface-level nature of Eisenhower-era culture. Which is a theme I tend to prefer when it's being explored in actual Eisenhower-era filmmaking, but it's still impossible not to give the movie credit on that front.

KingKubrick said...

Well, I doubt anyone will read this as I've waited so long to tackle this movie after the ho hum response and I have to say....I f--king loved it. I'll agree it's hardly ambiguous and I'm confounded anyone read it as anything less than a scathing indictment of scientology. A running gag throughout the film is that the Elron stand-in, Dodd, wrote much of "Dianetics' whilst plastered on a home-made concoction of paint thinner made by an insane PTSD suffering drunk. Little has been said about how hysterically funny this film is in most parts. When Dodd says "Your fear of captivity and imprisonment is a implant from a million years ago" me and my fiance had to pause the film because we were in hysterics for three minutes straight.(Spoilers Follow) The film's dense narrative and character study yields PTA's most multilayered film psychologically and thematically. Most of the fantasy sequence that occur throughout perfectly capture the psychology journey of Frankie. I must say that the charges that the film's characters aren't dynamic are baseless and perplexing. At the film's end Dodd has devolved into complete insanity (hence his singing while a horrified Frankie -genius reversal of the character's relationship dynamics that - sheds tears over how lost Dodd has become in his own schizophrenia) and Frankie has finally moved beyond his lost love and found happiness with a woman whom he can be fulfilled with. It's important to note that the film opens and ends with a Frankie and the naked sandwoman as his sexual impulses is what drives his psychotic behaviour. I found the ending incredibly uplifting and moving as Anderson has shown us a man who seemed beyond salvation find happiness when he discovers that a life of abstraction and solipsism will never be as fulfilling as finding comfort in human contact. It blew me away that Anderson, usually so dour and cynical, would choose such an optimistic conclusion. Suffice it to say I disagree with your assessment Tim but thank you for deflating my hype so I could approach the film on its own terms. I haven't even touched on how the film works both as a symbolic representation of the id and the superego as well as a straightforward character drama. Gawd I loved it.

David Greenwood said...

Since we're already leaping into spoiler territory, I didn't read the "Slow Boat To China" song as indicative of Dodd's insanity, rather an uncommonly honest ode to his love for Freddie. Whether that love is platonic, or father-son, the song seemed the only way Dodd could get his feeling across, as words would not do. Similarly Freddie's tears seemed to express how touched he was by the gesture. I thought it was kind of beautiful, if truly odd.

KingKubrick said...

@David Greenwood,

I can see that reading but I thought throughout the film PTA depicted Dodd becoming more and more insane and Freddie recognizing this and ultimately breaking from Dodd because of this realization. For instance, a pivotal scene is when Dodd takes Freddie to the desert, both loaded down with guns, and digs up his writings: classic paranoid schizophrenia. Freddie becomes increasing aware of how warped Dodd truly is and the singing is his ultimate recognition of Dodd's total break from reality. Everyone's working for a master, as Dodd says, as his Master is his insanity. That's why I'm stunned that anyone thought this movie was anything less than the most scathingly anti-religious film ever made. It's about a lunatic who convinces legions of people that his delusions are reality through sheer force of will.

David Greenwood said...

Tim: could this be that dreaded "ambiguity" that people speak of?

KingKubrick: I don't think The Master is a scathing indictment of anything... it's way too mellow for that. My feeling is that it draws parallels between The Cause and the overall moral climate of the post-war era.

America at that time was fairly conformist, and the cliche is that everyone knew where they stood and what they were doing. There's something comforting about that, because if everyone tacitly agrees to tow the line then there's no conflict. Of course, this wasn't sustainable because like it or not there are other kinds of people in the world (i.e. minorities, free thinkers), and it all has to come crashing down.

Similarly, I don't think Dodd is nuts. I think he's a charismatic cult leader. He's come up with a fun little story that comforts lots of people, and his follower love him. But when people in the film question the plausibility of his faith he reacts with rage and frustration. Freddie, as an obedient but unthinking acolyte reacts by curbstomping people. Why can't people just play along? The fiction is so nice.

Stuff like burying his works in the desert is weird, but it does have a sort of religious overtone doesn't it? In the end I don't believe Dodd's master is insanity, but his wife. He's in her pocket, and when she realizes she can't control Freddie, or the side of her husband that Freddie brings out, she declares that Freddie must go.

I still believe that Freddie and Dodd love each other, in the sense of wanting a deep, lifelong friendship. They each sense something in the other that they desire, but in the end the gap between the two is too great for the friendship to ever last. Hence the song.

KingKubrick said...

@ David Greenwood,

I like how we're still debating the film months after the fact. I think it speaks to the very long shelf life this film will have as people will be compelled to rewatch it to decipher it (Room 237 style -- great doc by the way). I clued in at the midway point that Dodd was utterly insane at the "Your fear of imprisonment is an implant from millions of years ago". Slap a tinfoil hat on Dodd and put him in front of shopping cart at that moment and you see how crazy what he's saying is. The "we met in a past life in prussia" bit, and numerous other actions of Dodd's support this reading. It also helps if you know that Hubbard was schizophenric himself (so psychologist who've studied his manuscripts and his general lunacy supports this as well). I think one of the keys to this reading is how the penultimate scene is almost a mirror image of the one in There Will Be Blood. Both scenes are about a prodigal son returning to his father (in this case a surrogate father) to mend their relationship only to face rejection ultimately (in the case of HW the father rejects him and in The Master Freddie rejects Dodd). And in both cases both father's are insane drunks who have become isolated due to their psychosis. In reference to Dodd, he is essentially a kept man, now in his seat of power, being controlled (as you pointed out) by his wife. It's intriguing how similiar the two films are actually. In one it concerns the journey of the father (TWBB) and in The Master it concerns the journey of the son (Freddie). Wow, does this film ever have a lot of layers. Why don't more people love it?

David Greenwood said...

@KingKubrick I suppose I'm more willing to accept Dodd's religious convictions at face value, rather than as an indicator of madness. Though it's probable that he did make them up, I believe all religion (including my own) is made up. Of course, Dodd reacts violently when his religion is questioned, and that's another issue entirely. But does that make him insane? I don't agree with you that it does.

Contentious discussions aside, I do like the movie a lot. As I'm an Anderson acolyte I will certainly end up buying it. But as to why people don't like it, I think it's because Anderson makes films for himself, and many people just don't like what he does. A simple matter of taste. The appeal of some filmmakers is not universal. I'm a Gaspar Noe fan as well, so I'm kind of used to this ^_^

KingKubrick said...

@David Greenwood,

They're not so much religious beliefs as they are the lunatic ravings of an insane mind. I would even argue that his violence defense of his beliefs, his use of torture and hypnosis to brainwash his followers makes him criminally insane. He's also a charalatan as he essentially stole the party boat from the beginning of the film. I'll take a closer look when I purchase the bluray and watch it several more times but that's the impression I got on first viewing and was pretty confounded that more people didn't recognize how hyper-critical this film is of Dodd.