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Photography of "The Master" in 65mm

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: The Weinstein Publicity departmentDate: 27.09.2012
Poster decoration in New York. Image taken 25. September by Sebastian Roascker

Though THE MASTER is wholly fictional, Paul Thomas Anderson set out to present the world of The Cause with a visceral and transporting realism. To capture both authentic period details and the imagined environs of The Cause on sea and land, he worked with a devoted crew, many of whom have forged a kind of family of their own, reuniting again and again on his productions.

One major, if entirely intuitive, decision immediately set the film off on a very individual course: Anderson’s choice to shoot THE MASTER with the now exceedingly rare 65mm film stock. From the start, he knew he wanted a distinctive period look – and after immersing himself in the vibrant tones and textures of such 50s cinematic classics as VERTIGO and NORTH BY NORTHWEST, Anderson hoped to mirror that supersaturated lushness, merging it with his own signature style of stark lyricism. With imagery spanning from the roaring sea to the shadows and light at play within the characters, 65mm seemed a perfect match for the broad contours of the story.

There was a time when 65mm stood at the very apex of cinematic processes, but today it has been relegated mostly to the making of IMAX® and other large-format films. In the heyday of Hollywood’s wide-screen epics, companies such as Todd-AO and Panavision hailed 65mm as giving audiences the crispest, clearest images, from the most panoramic vistas to the most personal close-ups. Numerous 60s classics including LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, WEST SIDE STORY, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, LORD JIM, MY FAIR LADY and 2001: A SPACE ODDYSEY revealed the power of the film stock to deliver that ineffable extra punch of vitality. But by the 1970s the increasingly high cost of the film stock caused a rapid decline. A brief resurgence in the 1980s saw such films as BRAINSTORM, TRON and THE BLACK AULDRON reviving the format, but that was short lived. More recently, the only films shot entirely on 65mm have been Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 HAMLET and Ron Fricke’s non-narrative films BARAKA and SAMSARA. (Christopher Nolan’s INCEPTION and THE DARK KNIGHT and Terrence Malick’s THE NEW WORLD include some 65mm footage and special effects sequences, but were shot primarily in 35mm.)

Anderson says the choice started as an exploration, but became a commitment once he saw the fit with the storytelling of THE MASTER. “The idea was something initially suggested by Dan Sasaki, Panavision's lens technician, after I'd inquired about Vista Vision Cameras from the 8 50s, just to play around with and figure out how some of these 50s films created their look,” he explains.
More in 70mm reading:

"The Master" in 70mm Cast & Credits

"The Master" in 70mm, Venice

"The Master" in 70mm, New York

"The Master" in 70mm, Los Angeles

"The Master" in 70mm Release

Motion pictures photographed in Super Panavision 70 & Panavision System 65

Now showing in 70mm in a theatre near you!

"The Master" production notes (PDF)

Internet link:

The Master" on the web

Film Home page
Cigarettes and Red Wines
Guide to 70mm
The Master Wiki

The Weinstein Publicity

"The Master" surpasses per-screen box office record; 70mm release appeals to cineastes, younger audiences - Variety report

"The Master": Framed in 65mm for Maximum Visual Impact - Kodak InCamera

Mihai J Malaimare
A strip of 65mm negative from "The Master". Image by Paul T Anderson, and made available for in70mm.com by Cigarettes and Red Wines web site

He goes on: “We started shooting with a 65mm Studio Camera and everything we were seeing started to feel very right. It gives you a wonderful, strong image, but more than the resolution or anything like that, it simply seemed to suit this story and these characters. Things could feel antique without feeling precious or a re-enactment of a particular style. It’s hard for me to describe it other than to say, it felt right.”

JoAnne Sellar felt similarly. “It was so fitting for a film like this with so much visual texture,” she says. “But it was also a real learning process because a lot of the knowledge of working with 65mm has been lost. There were considerable challenges involved. We were only able to find three Panavision cameras, so it was challenging when they broke down, and the lab process is also very complicated.”

Daniel Lupi adds: “Panavision went totally out of their way to service us in using cameras that have largely gone unused for decades. At times we had a guy from Panavision staying with us, just so he could handle technical issues with the cameras.” Throughout filming, Anderson would project the dailies using a 65mm projector as well. “I think it’s a large of his creative process, watching the dailies and conforming his vision to that,” explains Lupi. “He has a very organic process.”

The filmmakers are gratified that some audiences will get a chance to see the film in 70mm projection. “In an ideal world, audiences can enjoy the film in 70mm. There are still theaters playing 70mm films, thank goodness. Long may they wave,” says Anderson.

About the Editing

As principal photography of THE MASTER came to a close, Anderson worked with editors Leslie Jones and Peter McNulty to weave the imagery with his distinctive rhythms and pacing. McNulty did a first cut and then Jones, who previously received an ACE nomination for her work on Anderson’s PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE, came on board. She was taken right away with the footage.

“Peter did a beautiful first cut of the film and I was impressed with the complexity in both Freddie and Master's characters as well as the depth in their relationship. I was surprised at how the love story between these two men so gracefully became the focus of the film,” she comments.

She spent the next six months working closely with Anderson to chisel the final narrative. “The primary challenge in editing was to focus the relationship between Freddie and Master, and to connect Master's teachings with the struggles that Freddie experiences in his life – his experience of always running from something,” Jones explains. “We found ultimately that the more invested we were in Freddie’s experience the more we believe his attraction and need  for a ‘Master.’ And, at a certain point, it became less about the characters as individuals but more about these two men and their attachment to one another.”

While the 65mm photography had no impact on the editing, it became a distinct challenge as the release prints were prepared. Jones explains: “I rarely made a distinction between the two formats while viewing the footage. Nor were editing considerations made based on the 65mm format. It wasn't until picture was locked and we began working with Fotokem on release prints that we felt the impact. We had to prepare the finished film for both a 70mm and 35mm release, which was like working on two separate movies. And because Paul likes to do a film finish we were cutting negative and timing photo chemically, so it was very time consuming.”

Nevertheless, concludes JoAnne Sellar: “For all the complications of using 65mm, I think
for Paul it was well worth it. It’s an attempt at saving the beauty of real film.”
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Updated 07-01-23