As I sat watching P.T. Anderson’s The Master in an East Village cinema during its theatrical release, a curious thought came over me. In the middle of the screening, with the 70mm print unspooling before my eyes, it suddenly occurred to me that the character played by Joaquin Phoenix in the film – Freddie Quell, a disciple of the L. Ron Hubbard-style cult leader Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) – is actually a dog.

This may, on the face of it, sound utterly preposterous. After all, Phoenix himself is indeed a human being, no effort is made to dress him up or otherwise give him a canine appearance, and the character of Freddie can speak, walk on hind legs, form friendships and even, albeit briefly, hold down a job. And yet, almost as soon as I had formulated this hypothesis in the darkness of the movie-theatre, it was seemingly confirmed by a scene in which Freddie, coming home to Dodd’s house after a spell in prison, hugs his “master” and is then wrestled to the ground. As the two roll around on the residence’s front lawn, playfully grappling with each other and laughing with abandon – at one point Dodd even spanks Freddie on his rump – it is difficult for the viewer to comprehend this scene as in any way realistic if it is not understood that Joaquin Phoenix is in fact playing the part of a pooch.

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As I retrospectively considered the rest of the film in light of the possibility that Freddie belongs to the species canis familiaris, rather than our own homo sapiens, the storyline of Anderson’s film suddenly made much more sense than it otherwise would have. It is therefore worth it, I feel, to go through The Master, scene by scene, in order to prove the doglike properties of Phoenix’s rendition of the film’s protagonist.

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The first image of the film, lasting but a few seconds, is an overhead tracking shot of a deep azure sea, with a frothy backwash of waves caused, we can surmise, by the passage of an off-screen maritime vessel. This can, of course, be seen as an overt indication of Freddie’s seafaring ways (either as a member of the navy during World War II, or, subsequently, as a stowaway on board Lancaster Dodd’s yacht) – and repetitions of the same shot, overlaid with an atmospheric score by Jonny Greenwood, punctuate the film on two further occasions. But it may also connote Freddie’s “oceanic consciousness”, a state, according to Freud in his works The Future of an Illusion and Civilisation and its Discontents, of “primitive ego-feeling”, in which the pre-subjective individual lacks any concept of a self divorced from the external world. (1)

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Following on from this abstract prelude, the opening sequence, showing Freddie stationed on a desert island with his naval squadron, emphasises the character’s animalistic qualities. After shimmying up a palm tree and then slurping from the coconuts he had hacked from its branches, Freddie – in one of the film’s more notorious scenes – proceeds to frenetically dry hump a sand-sculpture of a woman carved into the beach by the sex-starved sailors. Frustrated, perhaps, with this experience, Freddie is then shown openly masturbating on the shoreline. Everything about his stance in this shot – the cocked legs, the protruding rear-end, the lolling head – is suggestive of a hound in heat, and this is further underscored in a subsequent shot where our protagonist lies sprawling on top of a gun turret, insatiably bathing in the warmth of this tropical locale’s searing sunshine, oblivious to the taunts of his fellow seamen below.

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Returning to civilian life, Freddie takes up work as a portrait photographer in a department store, but his bestial impulses once again surface – not only in his impulsive seduction of a colleague in the store’s dark room, but also, and with more drastic consequences, in his invasion of a customer’s private space, with the pretext of “getting the lighting right”. This intrusion leads to a fierce scuffle with the unsuspecting client, the first of many violent outbursts by Freddie. A further altercation over the death of a drinking buddy leaves Freddie on the run from a group of angered Mexican farmers, and he eventually finds himself on board a boat, with little idea how he got there. It is here that he makes the acquaintance of Lancaster Dodd – who is initially enamoured more by the potent alcoholic concoction that Freddie mixes more than by Freddie himself – and it is the asymmetrical power balance in their relationship over the rest of the film that fully establishes the canine nature of Joaquin Phoenix’s character, as, under the firm command of his master, he alternatingly plays the role of faithful companion, submissive pet and vicious attack dog.

Their initial dialogue on the prow of the yacht sets the stage for this relationship. With calm yet authoritative diction, Hoffman’s character chides Freddie: “You’re acting aggressive because you drank too much alcohol. […] Why all the skulking and the sneaking?” before declaring, “You’re aberrated.” To this admonition, the meaning of which he clearly can not understand (the word is an invention of Dodd’s), all Freddie can respond with is a meek, barely intelligible “No I’m not” – which in this context may as well be the low drawn out whine of a chastened mutt. But Dodd changes tack, and rejoins with a more conciliating “You seem so familiar to me” – a declaration to which Freddie can only assent with a mumbled “Yeah” – before launching into one of his trademark rambling tirades to explain who he is: “I do many, many things. I am a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist [he tellingly mispronounces the word as ‘nucular’ – DF], a theoretical philosopher. But above all I am a man, a hopelessly inquisitive man.” Although Dodd adds the throwaway line “just like you” to the end of his self-portrayal, it is abundantly clear that this is the precise opposite of how he has already come to consider his new companion. Freddie is not, and will never be, seen by Dodd as an equal human being, but as an underling, a servile lackey, a lapdog who will be on hand to do his every bidding.

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The next scene, a wedding ceremony for Dodd’s daughter, features another unhinged monologue by the Master that only further entrenches the subordinate role that Freddie must now assume:

How about this? Here it comes, a large dragon. Teeth, blood dripping, red eyes. What have I got? A lasso. I whip it up, I wrap it around its neck and I wrestle, wrestle, wrestle him to the ground. I snap up. I say “Sit, dragon!” Dragon sits. “Dragon, stay!” Dragon stays. Now it’s got a leash on. I take him for a walk. That’s where we’re at with it now. It stays on command. Next we’re going to teach it to roll over and play dead.

Although Dodd’s sermon, whose diction has overtones of Orson Welles’ stump speech in Citizen Kane (2), is ostensibly directed at the bridal couple, the structure of the scene, with a rigorous shot/reverse shot sequence alternating between Hoffman and Phoenix, firmly establishes that the true addressee for his oration is in fact none other than Freddie Quell. That Freddie is emotionally vulnerable, and singularly prone to the sort of psychological manipulation exercised by cult-leaders, is demonstrated by one of the film’s stand-out scenes, a lengthy “processing” session between the two figures. (3) Here Dodd probes Freddie’s memories, regrets, fears and concerns, at one stage insisting that he refrain from blinking while giving his answers. While we explore Freddie’s past – his mother was consigned to an asylum, and he still laments his abandonment of a 16-year-old inamorata named Doris – we also bear witness to the mechanics of his taming at the hands of Dodd. To a question as to whether he considers himself unpredictable, Freddie remains silent, before extemporaneously breaking wind. This physical act provokes a fit of giggling from the excitable Freddie, but the unimpressed Dodd only replies with a shake of the head: “Silly, silly animal, dirty animal. It’s good to laugh during processing, sometimes we forget. Even if it is the sound of an animal.”

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When the interrogation is complete, Dodd asks Freddie how he feels, and upon hearing the reply “I feel good,” he concludes the session with the condescending headpat: “You are the bravest boy I’ve ever met.” From this point on, Freddie is co-opted not only into The Cause, but even into Dodd’s own inner family. Brought to a sumptuous party by the Dodds, he will spend most of the occasion standing alone in a corner, piningly looking over at his master holding court with other guests, but when the authenticity of Dodd’s doctrine is challenged by a forthright sceptic attending the gathering, Freddie’s protective instinct sets in: with the camera periodically cutting to a close-up of Phoenix, he fixes a steely gaze on the hostile interloper, his lip curling in pent-up aggression. Finally, he attacks – but at this point his offensive takes the innocuous form of hurling a canapé at Dodd’s assailant, an act which meets with the Master’s blunt command: “Freddie, stop! This is not the time! Stop!”

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Freddie’s role as a guard dog is more fully assumed when, virtually held on a leash by Dodd’s son-in-law, he pays a visit to the Master’s challenger and, when the sceptic answers the door, bursts into his apartment and viciously latches onto him. Returning home, he laughs about the incident to Dodd, but unexpectedly meets with disapproval: “This is not the way. Naughty boy, OK? All right? You’re a mischief. What a horrible young man you are! This is acting like an animal, a dirty animal that eats its own faeces when hungry.” While accurately pointing out the bestial nature of Freddie’s actions, Dodd’s reprimands are contradictory: at one and the same time, he rebukes his protégé for his animalistic behaviour, but in doing so only cements Freddie’s loss of human agency, entrenching his status as family pet and guard dog.

Even when aggressively defending Dodd is an obviously futile affair, Freddie can not help but do so – in a way, he is hardwired to act in this manner, and has no control over his actions. This is made clear when the police come to arrest Dodd for fraudulently conducting himself as a medical practitioner: seeing his master handcuffed and led away from their home, Freddie immediately throws himself at the cops, despite being vastly outnumbered by the forces of order, and violently thrashes about as they attempt to subdue him. Seeing his faithful servant treated in this manner, Dodd – who by now regards Freddie with the kind of genuine affection one accords to a cherished pet – lets out a plaintive cry to the police: “Please don’t hurt him.”

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The two are locked in adjoining jail cells (Freddie has to be forcibly dragged into his cell, resisting the captivity as much as he physically can), and Phoenix acts as any caged beast would: yelling, writhing, lashing out, head-butting the bunk-bed repeatedly, and eventually kicking the ceramic toilet bowl to pieces. Dodd remains unflustered, and points out, as if it were a self-evident fact, that “Your fear of capture and imprisonment is an implant from millions of years ago. This battle has been with you from before you know it. This is not you. You’re asleep. Your spirit was free, moving from body to the next body. Free for a moment, but then it was captured by an invader force.” Finally, Dodd’s supercilious nonsense provokes an enraged reaction from Freddie, who unleashes a stream of invective centring on the claim: “You’re making this shit up!”

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Despite this outburst, Freddie is welcomed back to The Cause’s suburban headquarters in the horseplay scene mentioned earlier, but now Freddie’s training is intensified in nature: he undergoes hypnosis sessions with Dodd’s young wife Peggy (Amy Adams), who in many ways is the true mastermind of the cult, engages in staring games with Cause members, and is compelled to walk back and forth between two walls in a confined room. Around and around Phoenix prowls, like a dog chasing its own tail, until his motion becomes completely automated, thoughtless. At his most distressed, he even takes to jumping up and down on the spot. Once the “application” is declared a success, Freddie can resume his old duties, and once again attacks his master’s foes: when an editor dares to offer a critique of Dodd’s new book, Freddie coaxes him outside and, gripping him in a headlock, forcefully pins him to the ground and strikes him repeatedly.

In the last piece of evidence I will submit to support my hypothesis, an ensuing scene shows the Dodd family heading out to remote salt flats where, at the behest of the Master, they take turns riding motorbikes towards the horizon. When Freddie rides off, with the boundless joy of a hound finally let off its leash, Anderson cuts to a close-up of Hoffman peering at his companion, now a speck in the sunlight. Dodd is initially concerned, commenting to his daughter, “He’s going very fast,” but then composes himself, and in a tone of measured approbation quietly utters the patronising words, “Good boy.” But Freddie keeps on riding, and even when the Master calls out his name, he does not return. Freddie has found freedom.

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By now, I hope the validity of my claim that Joaquin Phoenix plays the role of a dog in The Master has become abundantly clear. Even so, there are more subtle aspects to his performance that further bolster the character’s canine traits: his idiosyncratic, lurching gait, his scrunched-up, snout-like face, the semi-articulate enunciation of his lines, which roam over the threshold between human voice and a more guttural, untamed mode of utterance, and the raw, intense energy, which Phoenix – indisputably the greatest actor of his generation – gives to all his performances, and which can be likened to that of a coiled spring poised for release.

After I exited the theatre upon my initial viewing of the film, electrified by my strange postulation, I wondered if others had also observed this aspect of the film. Seemingly not. Certainly, many critics remarked upon the animalistic qualities of Phoenix’s rendition, and some even compared the role that he played to that of a pet dog, but these comments remained at the level of metaphor, as descriptive labels for a character who was generally still assumed to belong to the human race. My claim is more radical: Freddie is not like a dog, he does not merely have certain characteristics of a dog. Rather, he is a dog. Not content with the film’s reviews, I therefore decided to head more directly to the source, and scour interviews with the actor himself. Gratifyingly, these did indeed corroborate a more radical notion of Freddie’s animality. Interviewed by Time, Phoenix stated, “If you’ve ever seen a stray dog that’s skin and bones and has a limp and is on the streets – that’s Freddie. […] The key to Freddie is an animal, just pure id.” (4) Elsewhere, he would expand on the analogy:

It’s kind of like my dog. She loves me, right? We’ve got a great connection and I love her. […] But if I open the fucking gate, she’s gonna roll, and it’s not because she has something against me. I don’t think she even fully understands what it is, but there’s just something inside of her that’s wild. (5)

Anderson, too, accepts the notion of Freddie as a “wild dog that can’t be leashed”, exclaiming, “Absolutely! Or perhaps he loves being on a leash, and likes to walk along perfectly, right in step, and then just for the fun of it yank the leash, or bite the leg of whoever’s holding him.” (6) Speaking of the preparations for the film, Phoenix recalled that for the jail scene he studied online videos of wild animals in captivity: “You can see that their brains don’t seem to be functioning anymore,” he told critic Dennis Lim, “It’s pure reaction, and you see the muscles going. I knew that’s what I wanted to capture – they’re hurting themselves, and they don’t even know that, but something inside is saying get out, get out.” (7) Finally, Phoenix even acknowledged that the director actually treated him as an animal during the shoot – in this case, however, the animal in question was not a dog, but a famous pet monkey: “Paul called me Bubbles on the set. Bubbles was Michael Jackson’s pet monkey, and I was Paul’s pet monkey.” (8)

Of late, the question of the animal and its relationship with the cinema has been the object of sustained interest by film scholars – inspired, to a certain degree, by Jacques Derrida’s The Animal That Therefore I Am, which famously begins with the philosopher recounting his naked confrontation with his pet cat and his bashful shame before its watchful gaze. (9) Key recent texts on the subject include those by Raymond Bellour (Le corps du cinéma) and Akira Lippit (The Electric Animal) among others. (10) It is, indeed, a fertile field: animals positively abound in the cinema, and their presence in films elicits a number of stimulating theoretical concerns. By and large, however, such roles – whether in animated or live-action films – are dominated by animals which are anthropomorphised to varying degrees. With the exception of films re-working mythical figures of folklore (werewolves, vampires, Tourneurian Cat People, and other forms of supernatural metamorphosis) or those dealing with wild children raised by beasts (whether Tarzan, Kaspar Hauser or Truffaut’s Enfant sauvage), seldom does one see the reverse process take place. It is exceedingly rare that a human in a film is zoomorphised. Only a handful of works would exhibit a similar tendency to the one I have outlined with respect to The Master. One obvious reference point is the work of Apichatphong Weerasethakul (in particular Tropical Malady [2004] and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives [2010]) with its blending of human and animal figures, as well as Tsai Ming-Liang’s Dong (The Hole, 1998) with its apartment-dwelling cockroach-people. In the European context, we could point to the crab-like movements of Klaus Kinski in Herzog’s Aguirre: der Zorn Gottes (Aguirre: Wrath of God, 1970) (11), the porcophilia of Jean-Pierre Léaud’s character in Pasolini’s Porcile (Pigsty, 1969) – not to mention the degradation to animal-like status of the victims in the Italian director’s Salò (1975) – and, finally, the concluding scene of Béla Tarr’s Kárhozat (Damnation, 1988), wherein the protagonist, Karrer, is reduced to scampering around on all fours in a deserted, muddy landscape and barking at a feral dog to whose savage status he has been assimilated.

The closest parallel I have been able to find to Joaquin Phoenix’s transformation to canine form in The Master, however, comes from a much more unlikely source. In the opening to the chapter “1730: Becoming-Intense, Becoming Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible…” of Deleuze and Guattari’s seminal work A Thousand Plateaus, the philosophers recall “the fine film Willard (1972, Daniel Mann). A ‘B’ movie perhaps, but a fine unpopular film: unpopular because the heroes are rats.”

They continue with a plot outline:

Willard lives with his authoritarian mother in the old family house. Dreadful Oedipal atmosphere. His mother orders him to destroy a litter of rats. He spares one (or two or several). After a violent argument, the mother, who “resembles” a dog, dies. The house is coveted by a businessman, and Willard is in danger of losing it. He likes the principal rat he saved, Ben, who proves to be of prodigious intelligence. There is also a white female rat, Ben’s companion. Willard spends all his free time with them. They multiply. Willard takes the rat pack, led by Ben, to the home of the businessman, who is put to a terrible death. But he foolishly takes his two favourites to the office with him and has no choice but to let the employees kill the white rat. Ben escapes, after throwing Willard a long, hard glare. Willard then experiences a pause in his destiny, in his becoming-rat. He tries with all his might to remain among humans. He even responds to the advances of a young woman in the office who bears a strong “resemblance” to a rat – but it is only a resemblance. One day when he has invited the young woman over, all set to be conjugalised, reoedipalised, Ben suddenly reappears, full of hate. Willard tries to drive him away, but succeeds only in driving away the young woman: he then is lured to the basement by Ben, where a pack of countless rats is waiting to tear him to shreds. (12)

This synopsis of an unheralded 1970s horror film serves as the point of departure for Deleuze/Guattari’s discussion of the “becoming-animal”, one of the key notions in their philosophy, and in much of the scholarship inspired by the post-structuralist theorists in the last three decades. For Deleuze/Guattari, “becoming-animal” is something qualitatively different to mere resemblance or imitation. Rather:

The becoming-animal of the human being is real, even if the animal the human being becomes is not; and the becoming-other of the animal is real even if that something other it becomes is not. This is the point to clarify: that a becoming lacks a subject distinct from itself; but also that it has no term, since its term in turn exists only as taken up in another becoming of which it is the subject, and which coexists, forms a block, with the first. (13)

The becoming-animal is, for Deleuze/Guattari, an instantiation, if not the paradigmatic example, of a raft of concepts that will be of exceeding familiarity to Deleuzians – and baffling obtuseness to those who are not conversant with the idiosyncratic vocabulary of their philosophy – including the molecular, the minoritarian, deterritorialisation, multiplicity, lines of flight and the rhizomatic. (14) Beyond the film Willard, Deleuze/Guattari find most of their aesthetic illustrations of the concept of becoming-animal in works of literature – specifically, the becoming-whale of Captain Ahab in Melville’s Moby Dick (“one of the great masterpieces of becoming” (15)), the becoming-dog of Penthesilea in Kleist’s play, and any number of Kafka short stories (the bug Gregor Samsa in Die Verwandlung, the mouse-people in Josephine die Sängerin, the ape Rotpeter in Ein Bericht für eine Akademie…). (16)

The sense that Deleuze/Guattari tend to prefer untamed animals such as wolves and rats over domesticated pets as exemplars of becoming-animal is bolstered by their distinction, in A Thousand Plateaus, between “individuated animals, family pets, sentimental, Oedipal animals each with its own petty history” which “invite us to regress, draw us into a narcissistic contemplation”, on the one hand, and “demonic animals, pack or affect animals that form a multiplicity, a becoming, a population, a tale” on the other hand. (17) This would perhaps suggest that the canine Freddie in The Master, with his progressive domestication by Dodd, is not an optimal specimen of the becoming-animal. But Deleuze/Guattari insist that “it is also possible for any animal to be treated in the mode of the pack or swarm. […] Even the cat, even the dog.” (18) Furthermore, when they issue the command: “Do not imitate a dog, but make your organism enter into composition with something else in such a way that the particles emitted from the aggregate thus composed will be canine as a function of the relation of movement and rest, or of molecular proximity, into which they enter,” and add the rider “You do not become a barking molar dog, but by barking, if it is done with enough feeling, with enough necessity and composition, you emit a molecular dog,” (19) this could almost be a description of the zoomorphism achieved by Joaquin Phoenix in Anderson’s film.

I should therefore temper my earlier asseveration that, as Freddie Quell, Phoenix is a dog. Rather, he can perhaps best be seen as a becoming-dog in the Deleuzo-Guattarian sense, and it is this process of becoming, this pendular back-and-forth movement between human and canine, that provides the narrative dynamic, the dialectic (although the philosophers would shy away from this particular term), for Anderson’s film. In this interpretation, we can see that Freddie’s innate propensities for the animalistic are in evidence in the opening navy sequence – no doubt fostered by the carnal physicality of his environs – but that he also makes significant attempts to rein these tendencies in, adapt more fully to the world of “civilised man”, by working a respectable job. It is only when these attempts fail – when, that is, he viciously attacks a customer – that Freddie precipitously regresses to a bestial status, and this fall is solidified by his domestication process at the hands of Dodd. Even during this part of the film, however, Freddie’s becoming-animal is never entirely achieved, his human side is still sporadically visible, and the tension between these two aspects of his persona reaches a crescendo in The Master’s concluding scenes, the elucidation of which I forewent in my earlier summary of the film, but which I will now go through in detail.

Leaving “Master” behind on the salt flats, Freddie travels to Massachusetts to visit his old flame Doris, only to discover from her mother that the now 23-year-old woman has moved to Alabama with husband Jim Day, with whom she has two children. Freddie then sleeps in a movie theatre playing Casper the Friendly Ghost, when an usher brings him a telephone, in a sequence that Freddie later describes as a dream. Dodd is on the line, urging Freddie to come to England and join his new school. When Freddie arrives from across the Atlantic, however, his reception is rather lukewarm. Paying a visit to Dodd in his cavernous office, Freddie meekly suggests that he could return to a role as The Cause’s resident photographer, but Peggy Dodd palms him off: “We don’t need pictures, Freddie. This is something you do for a billion years or not at all. This isn’t fashion.”

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As Peggy leaves the room, her husband begins to enigmatically wax lyrical about his long-lost companion: “Freddie, sailor of the seas. You pay no rent, you’re free to go where you please. Then go, go to that landless latitude, and good luck. For if you figure a way to live without serving a master, any master, then let the rest of us know, will you. You’d be the first person in the history of the world.” A rambling story by Dodd about their past lives as members of the “pigeon-post” during the Franco-Prussian war follows, as well as a teary rendition of “Slow Boat to China”, and, amidst all this, the ultimatum: “If you leave here I don’t ever want to see you again. Or you can stay.” Freddie, who opts for the former option, has finally, definitively been unleashed by his master.

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Whether his freedom will be that of a human or a hound is, however, left an open question by Anderson. A concluding scene in which he playfully re-enacts his processing scenes during a tender love-making session with a woman he had picked up at a bar suggests that the former disposition is in the ascendancy, but this is undercut by the final image of the film: in a repetition of a shot from the opening sequence, a naked Freddie lies down next to the sand goddess. The dog within him, this image suggests, is, and will always be, ineradicable.

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Endnotes

  1. Freud generally uses the term to refer to children in the earliest stages of infancy, before they have acquired a sense of subjectivity, but there is no reason why it could not also apply to animals, whose confinement to a pre-subjective world is far more definitive.
  2. For more on Hoffman’s mode of diction in The Master, see Claudia Gorbman, “The Master’s Voice,” Film Quarterly 68:2 (2014): 8-21.
  3. A clear allusion to Scientology’s practice of “auditing” its initiates, “processing” is the term that Dodd’s movement, known only in the film as “The Cause”, uses for the bouts of prolonged interrogation necessary to establish complete control over its subjects.
  4. Joaquin Phoenix, interview with Jessica Winter, “The Master’s Joaquin Phoenix on Animal Inspirations, Curb Your Enthusiasm and the Pleasures of Discomfort”, Time, September 13, 2012. http://entertainment.time.com/2012/09/13/the-masters-joaquin-phoenix-on-animal-inspirations-curb-your-enthusiasm-and-the-pleasures-of-discomfort/
  5. Joaquin Phoenix, interview with Elvis Mitchell, Interview. http://www.interviewmagazine.com/film/joaquin-phoenix#page2
  6. P.T. Anderson, interview with Damon Wise, “Weird Science”, Empire Magazine .http://cigsandredvines.blogspot.com/2012/10/interview-empire-magazine.html.
  7. Dennis Lim, “A Star Swerves a Bit; He’s Fine With That” New York Times, September 5, 2012, p. C1.
  8. Jessica Winter, “The Master’s Joaquin Phoenix”.
  9. Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am, trans. David Wills (Fordham, NY: Fordham University Press, 2008), pp. 3-5.
  10. See Akira Lippit, Electric Animal: Toward a Rhetoric of Wildlife (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008) and Raymond Bellour, Le corps du cinéma (Paris: P.O.L., 2009). To this brief list can be added Seung-hoon Jeong and Dudley Andrew’s article “Grizzly Ghost, Herzog, Bazin and the cinematic”, Screen 49:1 (2008): 1-12.
  11. Another example of a crustaceous performance is that of Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver. Without wishing to pre-empt my argument too much, this quality is picked up by none other than Deleuze/Guattari who, with reference to a Time article from 1977, state “The actor Robert De Niro walks ‘like’ a crab in a certain film sequence [the philosophers never mention the film by name, but the original article makes clear it is referring to Scorsese’s film – DF]; but, he says, it is not a question of his imitating a crab; it is a question of making something that has to do with the crab enter into composition with the image, with the speed of the image.” Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Brian Masumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), p. 274.
  12. Ibid., p. 233.
  13. Ibid., p. 238
  14. The literature on these terms is expansive enough that I will forego a more thoroughgoing explication of them within the framework of this modest article.
  15. Deleuze/Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 243.
  16. Curiously, despite seemingly being readily applicable to a study of films, the concept of the becoming-animal does not make an appearance in Deleuze’s two Cinéma books.
  17. Deleuze/Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus,, pp. 240-241
  18. Ibid., p. 241.
  19. Ibid., pp. 274-275.

About The Author

Daniel Fairfax is a doctoral candidate in Film Studies and Comparative Literature at Yale University and book reviews editor at Senses of Cinema