Thomas Mann, film critic



What am I? Who am I? Is this me?
  • "What am I? Who am I? Is this me?"
Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master looks like the consensus choice among critics as the best U.S. movie of 2012 (it's the only one, besides Richard Linklater's Bernie, to show up on all three of our year-end lists in the Reader)—meaning there should be at least a few hundred different arguments in favor of seeing it. If you haven't yet, be sure to catch it on the largest screen possible as soon as you get the chance. Like Metropolis, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Lawrence of Arabia (currently playing at the Music Box in a new DCP restoration), The Master plays out on a giant scale out of thematic necessity. It will not be the same movie outside a theater.

I look forward to revisiting this and to seeing what different critical responses emerge over the years. In the meantime, I'll let Thomas Mann have the final word; following the jump is a relevant quote from his story "A Man and His Dog":

I can think of large words with which to describe it, phrases we use for great occasions: I could say that he was thunderstruck. But I do not like them, I do not want to use them. The large words are worn out, when the great occasion comes they do not describe it. Better use the small ones and put into them every ounce of their weight. I will simply say that when [my dog] Bashan heard the explosion, saw its meaning and consequence, he started; and it was the same start which I have seen him give a thousand times when something surprises him, only raised to the nth degree. It was a start which flung his whole body backwards with a right-and-left motion, so sudden that it jerked his head against his chest and almost bounced it off his shoulders with the shock; a start which made his whole body seem to be crying out: What! What! What was that? Wait a minute, in the devil's name! What was that? He looked and listened with that sort of rage in which extreme astonishment expresses itself; listened within himself and heard things that had always been there, however novel and unheard-of the present form they took. Yes, from the start, which flung him to right and left and halfway round on his axis, I got the impression that he was trying to look at himself, trying to ask: What am I? Who am I? Is this me?

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