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'The Master' teaser with Joaquin Phoenix

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Paul Thomas Anderson, the auteur behind instant-classics Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood, has been more secretive than ever about his next film, The Master. Is it about L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology? Or something else? The religious drama, set for release on Oct. 12, remains shrouded in mystery except for its cast, which includes Philip Seymour Hoffman as a charismatic church leader, Amy Adams as his wife, and Joaquin Phoenix, who plays an alcoholic drifter.

With the release of the film’s first teaser, we get a peek at Phoenix’s troubled character: a violent, former World War II sailor who suffers blackouts. We see him sharpening a machete during some R&R on what is likely some South Pacific island, drunkenly putting the finishing touches on a voluptuous female sand sculpture, and surreptitiously stealing 180-proof torpedo fuel from below decks of his ship. “Are you mixed up?” asks a military shrink, while the strum of a guitar duels with the tick-tock of a clock. Watch it below.

It’s been four years since Phoenix starred in a film — if you don’t count his hipster documentary I’m Still Here — and the combination of his glassy-eyed charm with what sounds like another unsettling Jonny Greenwood score is tantalizing. It’s the perfect teaser — at least from Anderson’s point of view: it’s mesmerizing, yet it gives absolutely nothing away.

Read more:

‘The Master’ scores October release

Joaquin Phoenix in early talks to join director Paul Thomas Anderson’s religious drama

Philip Seymour Hoffman to star in new Paul Thomas Anderson film