The Master’s connections to the career of L. Ron Hubbard and the gospel of Scientology, however indirect, are just a part of Paul Thomas Anderson’s film’s many intriguing elements. What really matters most is the complex, tumultuous relationship of two markedly different men. Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman at his most ebullient), the charismatic promoter of a cultish self-help movement called The Cause, is the Hubbard-like figure here, but he in no way takes precedence over Freddie Quell (an astonishing Joaquin Phoenix), the drifter and World War II vet whom he enlists as “protégé and guinea pig” for The Cause. Anderson’s script brings a fascinating array of emotional and psychological undercurrents into play with these two paradoxical characters, and adds some semi-triangular complications via Peggy (an excellent Amy Adams), Dodd’s most recent wife and a savvy true believer for The Cause. Phoenix’s brilliantly stylized performance, an inspired combination of angular expressionism and an almost feral intensity, is worth the price of admission all by itself. Cinemark 14 and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated R J.C.S.