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Quint on the Cannes reel footage of Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master and David O. Russell's The Silver Linings Playbook!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the other two-thirds of the big Weinstein Company footage presentation at Cannes.

Now, the order of events was Harvey Weinstein introducing the footage presentation, teasing us at first that we were tricked there and will be seeing an hour long tape from his Bar Mitzvah that Martin Scorsese found and was restored by “all the directors I’ve ever argued with over the years,” followed by footage from The Master, The Silver Linings Playbook and, finally, Django Unchained. You’ve already read my write-up of Django I’m sure, now let’s look at the two movies about mentally unstable people.

The soundtrack to the entire Master reel was much the same as the teaser they put out today and even covers the same interview dialogue, but over different footage. The majority of the interview dialogue (“How’s your sleeping?” “I sleep just fine, sir.” “When you sleep, do you have nightmares?” “Not as much as before.” Etc) follows a rather Kubrickian push in on Joaquin Phoenix, dressed in Navy duds, as he writes something on a piece of paper down a long, long hallway. When we get close to him, he finishes and leaves. We see the paper and it’s a note saying he’s leaving for China.

Don’t quote me on this, guys, but I think Joaquin Phoenix is a little mixed up in this movie. Seriously, there were some shots of him where he looks like a background extra in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

I hadn’t seen the teaser before walking into the footage screening, so this might have been discussed, but that sequence where Phoenix is in red light, pulling fuel from a torpedo and drinking some, really kinda surprised me a bit… Maybe it’s just me, but in that light, he looks exactly like a young Sean Connery. I know that’s a weird thing to focus on, but it struck me and stayed with me, so I thought I’d throw that out there.

Oh, and despite IMDB saying so, Phoenix’s character’s name seems to be Freddie Quell, not Freddie Sutton.

It seems this unstable seaman has “episodes” and the interviewer wants to know if he remembers the last one. Phoenix clearly doesn’t. “Was there a fight? What happened? Sir?” “Well, let’s just see if we can’t help you remember what happened.”

Enter Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd, a mustachioed self-described writer, doctor, nuclear physicist and theoretical philosopher (“and, above all, I am a man”) and then you get why people have dubbed this the “Scientology Movie.” While Dodd is not L. Ron Hubbard, he sure as hell feels a lot like the man.

Primarily he seems to fit into this story to help Phoenix’s character, much to his wife’s displeasure, it seems. Amy Adams plays Hoffman’s wife and she’s looking a lot like Sissy Spacek in her prime in this film, I gotta say.

She seems to be the extreme one of the two, actually. She goes on a wide-eyed tirade at one point in the footage that was pretty off-putting. The speech goes like this:

“And this is where we are at; at the lowest level… to have to explain ourselves. For what we do we have to grovel! The only way to defend ourselves is to attack. If we don’t do that we will lose every battle that we are engaged in. We will never dominate our environment the way we should unless we attack!”

I like adorable, bubbly Amy Adams! This crazy lady scares me! Make the bad woman go away! I liked the nice one!

Adams distrusts Phoenix’s character, maybe sees that he’s beyond care… or maybe there’s more than meets the eye here. I don’t know. But one of the meatier dramatic moments in the footage comes from Adams trying to get Hoffman’s character to stop Phoenix’s care, paranoia rising in her voice as she states that this man will be their undoing.

Hoffman’s response: “If we are not helping him, then it is we who have failed him.”

That hint of drama makes me more curious to see the movie than anything else in the footage. Hoffman’s just so damn good, his desperate passion showing through in just a few words… and Adams comes across as his biggest fan and supporter in this footage, to see them at odds over this patient is a very interesting dynamic.

I also have to mention a shot of Phoenix opening a suitcase and fire erupting out of it. It was just a quick shot in amongst a bunch of other scenes, like a guy jacking it on a beach and a shot of an insane man rapidly punching a plate glass window like it was a boxer’s speed bag, so I have no idea the context, but Phoenix doesn’t seemed to be all that shocked at fire coming out of his trunk-like suitcase.

The whole vibe of the footage made a bit anxious. Between Jonny Greenwood’s ticking-clock score, the shot compositions (lots of close ups), the length of the camera moves, the slightly disconnected look in Phoenix’s eye and the juxtaposition of image the footage both impressed me and put me on edge, which I’m sure is exactly what Anderson hoped to do.

In other words, very impressive… and again… very Kubrickian. Maybe it was the period and armed forces setting or the long dolly shots, but it really did feel a bit like Full Metal Jacket in terms of the filmmaking angle. Not that it’s any surprise, but I can’t wait to see the full film this October.

Next up was some footage from The Silver Linings Playbook, which I feel was the odd man out here. That’s not to say David O. Russell doesn’t stand comfortably next to Anderson and Tarantino or that the footage was bad, but it seemed like the anticipation for this footage was far lower and it was doomed to get lost in all the hubbub over The Master and Django Unchained.

Bradley Cooper stars in this film about a man newly released from a many year stint at a mental hospital who is trying to get back together with his wife, who doesn’t want to see him. Cue Jennifer Lawrence, who plays a character almost as crazy as Cooper is, and I’m sure we can see where this is going. Cooper wants to get with someone who doesn’t want him anymore and at first doesn’t like Lawrence, but her brand of crazy grows on him and he finds the salvation he’s looking for in her instead.

I know it sounds like I’m being slight, but I actually liked the footage… it was just cut more like a regular (if longer than usual) trailer, so it felt more like I was watching an advertisement than something designed to really give me a feel for the movie.

Cooper and Lawrence both look at their charismatic best here, Rober DeNiro plays Cooper’s father and he looks awake and invested, so that’s good, and the big happy surprise was seeing Chris Tucker pop up as a fellow mentally unstable friend of Cooper’s. Tucker looks like he’s put on a little healthy weight and the tiny bits he has in the footage were sharp. Glad to see him back.

Tonally this feels much more commercial than I Heart Huckabees and like I said, everybody looks to be really charming and on the ball, but it was at a disadvantage coming after footage from The Master and before the footage from Django Unchained, both of which made a unique impression in their own ways.

So, that’s that. I have some Cannes interviews that’ll be going up shortly and tomorrow brings new films from Takashi Miike, Andrew Dominik and Bernardo Bertolucci and (if I can make it work in my schedule). Time for 4 hours of sleep! Stay tuned!

-Eric Vespe
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