I'm barely following along here, but this is interesting conversation. There's a barrier you think should exist between your take on a film and your take on that filmmaker, even if you're coming to conclusions based on recurring threads that run through a filmmakers work. Looking at PTA as an artist, his films lead me to believe that he doesn't go in with a firm plan. There are filmmakers like David Fincher who know every angle and lens before Day 1 of photography and filmmakers who like to choose their weapons in the moment. I believe PTA to be of the 2nd category. He's interested in exploring on set and possibly discovering new ideas. That would explain to me the varied quality of his work, and the way his worst films lack focus. (That's me theorizing about the filmmaker to properly contextualize my opinion of the film.) I think PTA is a very talented filmmaker, but he's not a focused one and that's by choice. And that's okay, though it's why I will always see him as a hit-and-miss director.
All of this is speculation
This speculation is based on the films.
I also speculate that PTA is going for something more than solid storytelling. When it works for me again it's gonna be on the level of There Will Be Blood. Possibly even better.
I don't think he's messing with us. I just think he's experimenting and I prefer a director who goes in with a confident plan. Still plenty of chances to do something great, and less room for frustrating errors.
All of this is speculation.