First public screening of ‘The Master’ happening right now in Santa Monica (UPDATED)

Anyone who happened to be on hand at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica this evening for the American Cinematheque unveiling of a new DCP of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” was treated to quite the exciting surprise: the first public screening of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.”

A source at the event tells me that, prior to the screening, personnel announced that there would be a “secret screening” following the event and that anyone who’d like to stay was more than welcome. When the lights came up after the closing credits of Kubrick’s icy horror staple, attendees were told the secret film was Anderson’s much anticipated opus (which will screen at the Toronto, Venice and maybe Telluride and Fantastic Fest film festivals next month).

The film is being shown in 70mm, the director’s preferred format of exhibition for “The Master” and one that has reportedly caused issues in lining up both commercial and festival exhibition. Anderson is in attendance (along with Maya Rudolph).

Recently there has been a lot of activity around Anderson’s film, which tackles (though not explicitly) L. Ron Hubbard and the rise of Scientology. After landing slots at the previously mentioned Venice and Toronto film festivals, The Weinstein Company pulled the release date of the film up to September 14.

Gotta love the guy. He doesn’t go the traditional route. Popping the film on unsuspecting cinema lovers (Who else would be at a Cinematheque screening of “The Shining?”) is pure PTA.

So here’s to you lucky folks seated in the Aero right now soaking up the latest from one of the best working filmmakers today. It makes me feel even worse that I’m way over here in some Holiday Inn north of Mobile, Alabama. I’ll try to get some thoughts on the film out of my source after the screening.

Meanwhile, do what you can to help Anderson exhibit the film in 70mm. “Definitive P.T. Anderson resource” Cigarettes & Red Vines has some ideas. I’ve had the opportunity to see a few films in the format in my time and it really is glorious. I can’t wait to see what he’s done with it.

UPDATE: Well that caused quite the stir last night. My heart goes out to all the LA peeps who had planned on attending that screening of “The Shining” but opted out. Let that be a lesson to ya! My guy decided to sleep on it before sending a detailed reaction (though he texted a one-off to me afterward — he was impressed). But reactions are all over the place now, so you’ll find them. Slash Film has a good aggregation, so start there.

UPDATE 2: A few days late here as I’ve been traveling, but my guy sent in his extended thoughts, so I’m passing them along:

“I’ll get the (semi) negatives out of the way first. Because everyone will do this, and because it is merited, I will knock out the ‘There Will Be Blood’ comparisons. Stylistically and tonally they are of a piece. And that, in my eyes, is both a positive and a negative. Positive because I think he has honed in on style that can connote themes and display a character’s psyche in the best and most compelling way. Negative because it was such a fresh and overwhelming sucker punch of a feeling when seeing it in ‘Blood,’ and that might be a little diluted here. And that is only a thing I bring up because I feel like people might think that, and it is a little unfair.  Also, “Blood” had such a strong narrative through-line because of the intensely-focused main character, and The Master tends to meander. It has a strong sense of theme and is always compelling, but it does seem a little aimless in sections. BUT–and I tend not to say this too much–I think that has much more to do with the plight of the character, who is very much aimless in this film.

“That out of the way, all of the things you might be excited about live up to expectations AND MORE. It is never less than visually stunning. The music fits the style perfectly (actually enhances it), and, as I already texted you, actually wavers and strays from the anxiety-inducing percussion to lush and beautiful in some parts. The period detail is impeccable. The production design and costumes are incredible and always believable. Most importantly, of course: The performances are AMAZING. And I don’t use the word ‘amazing’ unless I mean it. Phoenix had me *slightly* worried with the teasers that he might come off too ticky, but it is quite an accomplishment. It’s rare to see a performance where I was legit worrying about the other actors in the scene–that’s how unpredictable a powder keg he was. I could not ever predict what he was going to do next (the performer and the character). Sometimes P.T. just holds on his face for an extended period of time and it is so, so moving/funny/sad/disgusting–ALL AT ONCE. Hoffman is much bigger than I thought he would be, but his vacillations from cool/collected to explosive and scary were always believable. And Adams is great and her character and performance grow in power and stature are the movie goes on.

“The film is about 2 hours 10 minutes, but honestly felt longer than that. I *do* think it could be tightened. But it’s a unique vision pushed forward and is unlike anything else out there (besides his past work). There are moments that are heartbreaking and funny and melancholic all in the same beat, and that is an fantastic feat. I would say it’s always good with some great, great moments and scenes peppered throughout.

“A side note: Much of the material from the first couple teaser trailers is not in the film. And when it is, there are different takes used. Just thought that was interesting.”

“The Master” opens September 14.