Song of the Day #4,210: ‘Get Thee Behind Me Satan’ – Ella Fitzgerald

Best Movies of the 2010s
#15 – The Master (2012)

Paul Thomas Anderson often shows up at or near the top of critics’ lists of the best living film directors. I’m a card-carrying member of the cult.

Anderson directed my third favorite movie of the 00s (There Will Be Blood) and both Boogie Nights and Magnolia, two of my favorite 90s films. In the 2010s, he delivered a trio of fascinating and wildly different movies, including 2014’s Inherent Vice and 2017’s Phantom Thread.

His crowning achievement of the decade was The Master, a mesmerizing character study about a disturbed vet (Joaquin Phoenix) and an L. Ron Hubbard-like cult leader (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) set in the aftermath of World War II.

Phoenix and Hoffman deliver career-best work, along with Amy Adams, brilliant as the Lady Macbeth of this drama. All three were nominated for Oscars, though the film was woefully shut out of every other category (it should have shown up in Picture, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Production Design and Score).

This film is so seductive and gripping that, though it is made up mostly of simple conversations, it plays like a suspense thriller. Between the performances, Anderson’s dialogue, and the gorgeous 65mm photography, every scene is a feast for both the mind and the eye.

Billed early on as an exposé of Scientology, the film uses the rise of religious movements after World War II as the backdrop for a destructive co-dependent relationship. Phoenix’s Freddie Quell is a sexually frustrated alcoholic who craves the answers provided by Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd, while Dodd is drawn to Quell’s unbridled nature. It’s an engrossing collision of id and superego.

This is the most challenging film on my Top 20, one that resists easy analysis but rewards repeat viewings. It’s further proof that Anderson himself is the true master.

Get thee behind me, Satan
I want to resist
But the moon is low and I can’t say “No”
Get thee behind me

Get thee behind me, Satan
I mustn’t be kissed
But the moon is low and I may let go
Get thee behind me

Someone I’m mad about
Is waiting in the night for me
Someone that I mustn’t see
Satan, get thee behind me

He promised to wait
But I won’t appear and he may come here
Satan, he’s at my gate
Get thee behind me
Stay where you are
It’s too late

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,210: ‘Get Thee Behind Me Satan’ – Ella Fitzgerald

  1. Dana says:

    I may stand corrected, but I’m fairly sure I never saw this movie, probably because, unlike you, I am not a card carrying member of the Paul Thomas Anderson fan club.

  2. Peg says:

    I am not a fan of his movies either but I may check this one out some day

  3. Amy says:

    I somehow missed this film despite being a huge fan of all three actors, likely because I tend to like/appreciate his films more than love them, with the exception of There Will Be Blood. I was particularly not a fan of The Phantom Thread, yet I sat through it, so I should rectify not having seen your 15th favorite film of the whole freaking decade!

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