NOVEMBER AT THE MOVIES
I have waited all year for The Master. I am a huge fan of both actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote, Moneyball) and director/writer Paul Thomas Anderson, who five years ago gave us the brilliantly disturbing drama There Will Be Blood.
Anderson presents us with a stark, often uncomfortable look at human interactions as he pits a psychologically troubled World War Two veteran (a wonderful Joaquin Phoenix) against the fierce intelligence of Lancaster Dodd (a stunningly brilliant Hoffman) who is the highly charismatic “master” of a new religion called The Cause.
Immediately, comparisons to that other famous man-made religion born in the 1950s spring to mind and Anderson has publicly acknowledged that The Master is in fact based loosely on the early years of Scientology and its self help program of Dianetics.
This in itself is fascinating, however it is the intense personal interaction between the men that truly unnerved me.
This is a brilliantly performed (the performances from Hoffman and Phoenix should not be missed) well crafted film from a “master” filmmaker and though a little long, it will deeply challenge you if you are up for it.
In 1990 a 38 year-old man wrote an article for a local newspaper titled “On seeing a Sex Surrogate.”
The man was journalist Mark O’Brien, who as a result of childhood polio, had spent the rest of his life in an iron lung, only being able to move his head slightly to the left and use his mouth to type with a pencil on a keyboard. Luckily for us he was at least able to do this, as his musings are still greatly admired for their wit, perception and penetrating honesty.
It was this very article about a disabled person’s first sexual encounter with a sex surrogate (a sex therapist who helps people with disabilities experience sexual intercourse) that caught the attention of well known Australian writer director Ben Lewin in 2006.
Lewin, himself a victim of polio at a young age, was intrigued and moved by O’Brien’s revealing account of his time with sex therapist Cheryl Cohan-Greene.
So with true boldness and immense talent, Lewin has brought to the screen O’Brien’s remarkable story.
Helen Hunt and John Hawkes in The Sessions
This might not be the sexiest of subjects – a lead character who can’t move and who has endured a life of hardship and loneliness – but please don’t be put off as this is without a doubt one of the most moving, laugh-out-loud funny and memorable films I have seen in a long time.
Lewin’s perfect screenplay captures O’Brien’s remarkable tenacity and humour and never ventures down the path of self pity or emotional manipulation. Yes, I felt incredible, powerful feelings when watching but at no time did I feel maudlin.
I simply felt inspired and uplifted by the beauty of the human spirit.
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