When you talk about how great 2012 looks or how surprised you are that something like Prometheus has shown up and become your most-anticipated over films like The Dark Knight Rises or Django Unchained, keep in mind that somewhere, quietly, a master works…

Paul Thomas Anderson is, naturally, to whom I refer and he’s working on finishing his long-awaited follow up to There Will Be Blood, titled The Master. We’ve covered the film with plenty of excitement, but our latest look comes from PTA-focused blog Cigarettes & Red Vines, which have gotten an intimate little look into the post process on the film.

Showing up even ole IMAX-enthusiast Christopher Nolan, PTA decided to shoot The Master entirely on 65mm and is now in the process of cutting said film. He’s now shared a few photos of the film being handled by negative cutter “Simone,” along with a message…

CJ –
good evening. it’s been so long and you’ve been so patient, thought i’d fill you in on where we’re at with it now. These shots include our lovely Negative Cutter, Simone, imported all the way from France to cut 65mm negative. She does it all with a pair of scissors from Staples. I’ll have more to share in the coming days/weeks/months. Hope you’re well. Thank you for all the support.

See you soon.

Now before we get our nostalgic panties in a bunch- don’t take this as an indication the director has gone ultra-old-school, sweated over printed dailies and cut this thing by hand. That sheet of paper you see on the desk in front of Simone? That’s an EDL or “Edit Decision List” that’s spat out by an AVID or other digital editing software and tells the negative cutter exactly where and what to cut together with little frame-specific serial numbers. It’s a similar process as is done on all photochemically shot film, save for the whole 65mm thing, and was a role played by Mary Nelson-Duerrstein on There Will Be Blood (who also did it for 2009’s Star Trek, for example). Before her, PTA worked with Mary Beth Smith on Punch Drunk Love, before she went on to cut the negatives of films like The Departed and Inception.

While I’m sure it’s second nature to those who do it, what a stressful profession to imagine doing, no? Flinging scissors around the most pristine copy of a film there will ever be? Gives me the shivers over here just thinking about it, with my dumb hands. I would also imagine it’s a profession with a high retirement rate these days, as need drops ever more precipitously…

In any event, that shot of the negative itself was immediately cropped and reversed for the following results, showing what appears to be Phillip Seymour Hoffman cutting a rug.

What I wonder is if this unique shooting decision will ultimately be enjoyed in its full glory by many, or any people. I’m sure a 70mm print will be struck somewhere and shown someplace, but the number of screens capable of showing such a thing is definitely shrinking. Even as 35mm dies, hopefully the more operatic theatres will keep their 70mm projectors around for truly special occasions, as IMAX theatres sure as shit aren’t doing so.

If that’s not enough PTA news for you by the way, know that PTA’s good buddy Robert Downey, Sr. has been talking about the director and his film, calling what he’s seen “great.” The two are working on a set of Criterion releases for Downey’s old films, which you can learn more about at the original blog post.

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