Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master tribute screening at FACT review

Posted on 13 February 2014
By Craig Kell
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Following the tragic death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, his acting talents have been remembered and celebrated across the world.

His towering on-screen performances, including Paul Thomas Anderson’s cult drama The Master, a decisive film that earned mixed opinions from its audiences back in 2012 was screened at FACT in Liverpool.

Although some called it a masterpiece, others just didn’t get it. However there was no denying the greatness of the acting, with this being one of Hoffman’s last roles.

Focusing on the film itself, director Anderson would use similar traits of corruption and authority from his previous masterpiece There Will Be Blood to depict the differences between Hoffman’s cult leader Lancaster Dodd and Joaquin Phoenix’s rebellious outcast Freddie Quell.

The former would prove to be the primary focus of the film with the controversial yet effortless Phoenix delving into a character who would sneer, snarl and threaten to self-destruct at any moment.

This psychotic behaviour would become a reality halfway in the film where Freddie would go completely nuts by his prison cell in a mesmerising first take. Method acting at its very best.

However Hoffman would produce an equally brilliant turn as the charming yet short-tempered Dodd, a man loosely based on the real-life Scientologist L Ron Hubbard.

His scenes with Phoenix would allow the late actor to gain the upper ground in terms of authority and persuasion as the dynamic pair took part in a mental battle of wits throughout.

The talented Amy Adams would feel a little overshadowed by her dominant male co-stars but was still able to give an effective performance as Dodd’s pregnant yet manipulative wife Peggy.

The film would also benefit from its mesmerising production, which included the use of wide camera-shots to showcase the surreal focus on its characters.

The meticulous art direction and costume design would also perfectly evoke the 1950s era while the use of Johnny Greenwood’s music worked well in capturing the tenseness of its intimate character scenes.

Yet whilst the film was a triumph for its artistic imagery and tour-de-force acting, it would suffer occasional flaws from its dullish plot, which left a few people questioning what message it was trying to get across.

With the focus being on Quell and Dodd’s battle of the minds, nothing would really be gained from the two and a half hour length running time with Freddie failing to make much progression once the film had concluded.

But even with these simplistic flaws, there was no denying the exquisite feel of the film as a whole.

For Hoffman, this was undeniably a career-high performance from the great man whose remarkable work should be treasured by many for a long time.