When The Master ended, we didn't leave the theater. It's not as though the credits were stylishly managed or as if we were waiting for some sort of bonus footage, but we just sat, and stayed, and at first there was no communication at all. It just didn't seem like the right time to speak. We stayed there til the lights came up, and when they did we stumbled into the lobby like we'd emerged from Plato's cave and embarked in a standing discussion for what was probably a very long time. No one had any definite answers last week, and I'm afraid I still don't have them now. The Master is a confounding, remarkable cinematic achievement, and though I'm not sure what it all adds up to, I look forward to watching it many, many more times.I'd like to imagine that the strange, foggy bewilderment is deliberate. Perhaps this is excuse making on behalf of a filmmaker I'm quite fond of and a movie I'd been eagerly anticipating, but The Master reads as so formally perfect that it's hard to imagine Paul Thomas Anderson making it strictly in service of a cinematographic ideal. Anderson's vision is very much on display in each and every shot of The Master, and the compositions are crisp, spacious landscapes built to house the larger than life performances of its leads. We travel by land and by sea, with aerial and tracking shots that are very nearly worrisome, as if our protagonist's erratic behavior is something we should fret about in real time. Everything is beautiful in the most mundane way, alive with a strange post-war tension rooted in some strange, moth-eaten distaste for the washed-out banalities of modern existence. And, um, yeah, if that sounds pretentious, you probably shouldn't see the movie.