Paul Thomas Anderson’s "The Master" is many things. It’s a portrait of post-war America that captures depths the likes of which haven’t been explored before. It’s a surprisingly compassionate insight into what purports to be the early days of Scientology. It’s the return to acting of Joaquin Phoenix, giving a performance so raw and unhinged that it transcends any mention of "method." It’s the best movie of last year. And now it’s the best Blu-ray release, too.
Mainly thanks to two indispensible extra features, both of which would be worth the price of admission on their own. First up is master filmmaker John Huston’s hour-long documentary "Let There Be Light," investigating a proto-PTSD treatment center - much like the one seen in the opening minutes of "The Master." Huston’s doc - full of unforgiving close-ups and boxed in compositions - is truly painful to watch. And considering the fact that America’s currently embroiled in her longest running war ever, and we’re faced with more troops than ever returning home to lives they no longer recognize, it’s a fair bit important too.
There’s some fly-on-the-wall behind-the-scenes footage, and a number of shockingly oblique trailers. But the other big gun is a 20-minute "reel" of cut footage from the film - edited together like a long music video, it offers insights into the ellipses and ambiguities that frustrated so many (and enticed so many others) upon the film’s release. ’PTA’ clearly decided to go with an oblique approach to his neo-intellectual-noir, but this reel suggests the film that could have been. Personally, I’m more than satisfied with what we got.