The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
Following on from There Will Be Blood, writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson has produced another powerful parable of the American Dream-turned-nightmare.
Blood dealt with the criminal oil oligarch at the turn of the century. The Master is very much about post-WWII traumas that intensified cold-war paranoia.
Significantly, despite the US being colonised by immigrants, it's has a peculiar tendency to xenophobia and fear of what's deemed the un-American - communism, for example, personified evil and was persecuted.
The US proved a fertile ground for those seeking "spiritual" solutions and spawned cults like scientology.
The Master is clearly based on L Ron Hubbard and has inevitably attracted anger from his gullible acolytes in Hollywood.
Here he's called Lancaster Dodd - a megalomanic with Mephistophelian pretensions who is brilliantly characterised by Philip Seymour Hoffman.
His Faustian counterpart is Freddie Quell - a traumatised soldier who has become an alcoholic drifter obsessed with sex. He is played with conviction by Joaquin Phoenix.
When Freddie's discovered as a stowaway on Dodd's boat, he's offered a sanctuary. Apart from providing a specimen to study he makes lethal cocktails.
It's an explosive combination and we witness a titanic struggle for control and the rage of the frustrated manipulator faced with a troubled man who just wants to blot out reality as he recalls painful memories.
Matters are further complicated by the presence of Dodd's dutiful wife Peggy (Amy Adams) and his doubtful, jealous son Val (Jesse Plemons).
Dodd's Cause includes the so-called "processing" which involves the use of hypnosis to reveal the past and facilitate future brainwashing.
Thus it's not surprising it subverts the power of the will, even despairing of the imagination, which Dodd suddenly embraces to the chagrin of a devotee.
That's the nature of the charlatan - when you're playing mind games with people who mostly share some sense of the Aramaic tradition.
Anderson cleverly conjures up the atmosphere of the 1950s by using 65mm film and bleached colour schemes before confronting us with dramatic close-ups.
Everything builds to a visceral finale that is almost a parody of Lee Strasberg's caricature of the Method, another system which stresses losing yourself in the character.
As exhausting as it's exasperating - with little empathy for either character - it will probably leave you feeling a little punch drunk.
Still, Anderson doesn't flinch from confronting cinematic convention and evidently enjoys exploding movie myths.
A tour-de-force that refuses to compromise with happy-ever-after-land.