Tuesday, September 11, 2012

'The Master' and Catholicism

I've been a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson since Magnolia came out in 1999, and with the epic, brilliant There Will Be Blood he cemented his spot as one of the best living American filmmakers. Along with The Tree of Life, There Will Be Blood is my favorite film to come out in the last decade or so. With that in mind it should come as no surprise that I've been eagerly anticipating Anderson's latest opus The Master -- loosely inspired by the life of L. Ron Hubbard and starring Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman -- which arrives this Friday in limited release. I've already purchased my tickets for a Friday showing in Arclight Hollywood's Cinerama Dome, where the film will be presented in the 70mm format.

I've been reading some reviews and generally following the hype surrounding the film for the last few weeks. Today an interview with Anderson appeared in the Huffington Post and one bit stood out to me:
I know you were raised Catholic. Do you see similarities between Scientology and Catholicism as you're researching the film?

Not really.

There were times watching the film when I thought, Boy, Dodd is just making up any old thing, but then you're in church and they're saying stuff that got made up 2,000 years ago.

Yeah, sure, I think a lot of people can make that argument. I don't know. I don't really think about it.
There are a couple things to notice here. First is the fact that the interviewer is asking such buffoonish questions at all. What is he thinking? This is juvenile atheistic drivel of the first order. What similarities between Scientology and Catholicism, exactly? Beyond the level of the extremely superficial, there are none whatsoever. Because there are such things as quasi-religious hucksters and charlatans, therefore Christianity was the product of religious charlatans making things up? It does not follow, sir. And, as a matter of fact, such a thesis is virtually impossible to defend given the historical record and logic. Oops.

The great thing about the exchange is Anderson's curt rejection of the initial suggestion and the subsequent polite dismissal of the follow-up. This juxtaposed with all his other responses to questions, where he generously elaborated if he had even the slightest idea what the interviewer was getting at. There's something wonderful about a petty atheist extrapolating a sweeping rejection of all religion from a narrow-minded reading of a film, only to have the auteur respond with the equivalent of a blank stare.

Sorry that none of this was actually about The Master or Anderson as a director. If you're interested in that kind of thing, I'll probably be blogging about it this weekend. Stay tuned.

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