Revisiting Durieux's "the Master"

By Ben Brooks

We were all extremely sad and shocked to learn of Philip Seymour Hoffman's passing  of an alleged drug overdose yesterday afternoon. Like James Gandolfini's passing earlier this year, PSH's death came much too soon and without any warning. In fact, when I first heard the news I hoped/believed it was a hoax; unfortunately, I was wrong.

I don't need to tell you how supremely talented Mr. Hoffman was as an actor. He was one of the few people working today that gave instant credibility to almost any project he attached his name to.  When you heard him sign on to more commercial projects, like his recent role in the remainder of Hunger Games films, it made fans believe two things: 1) the script must have been pretty good and 2) his mere presence would make the film better.

We also know that Mr. Hoffman had a history of addiction, with a recently completed stint in rehab, and reports of his death being caused by a drug overdose. With all that in mind, we thought it would be a fitting tribute to revisit Laurent Durieux's "The Master," which seemingly takes on a whole new meaning in light of his passing.

The master

If you've never seen the print for the Master in person, you should. It is incredibly detailed and beautiful, and shows off just how supremely talented Laurent Durieux is. The line work, concept, coloring and likeness are all incredible. For a film all about the hypnotizing power PSH's character has over a group of seemingly lost and wandering souls, it's an extremely fitting and well thought out print for the film.

However, in light of his passing, the print plays double duty as a wonderful tribute of the complicated man, himself.  It can now be seen as a portrait of Mr. Hoffman, with a title that many feel would fittingly describe his abilities as an actor -- "The Master."  Reaching behind him from the dizzying, hypnotizing background is a hand that could almost certainly represent his struggle with drugs.  Even though he was a master at one aspect of his life, he constantly battled the entrancing allure of substances that would ultimately deprive the world of his talents.   It is sad and poignant, and evokes emotions in the precise way that all art should. Of course, like all art, this is just one person's interpretation. But it seems fitting to have a work in another medium to remember him by, which is capable of evoking the same kind of emotions that Mr. Hoffman was able to make so many feel through his films.

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