Posted Dec 07 2017

Phantom Thread - This Career Ending Movie Rocks

Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson

Satrring Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville, Gina McKee, Brian Gleeson

PTA and DDL show up to unveil the final card in this year’s Oscar deck. And is it a player? It most certainly is.

But something of a wild card to be sure. For their latest collaboration, Anderson has placed his muse Day Lewis in the story of an artist (in this case a renowned dress designer) in thrall to a muse of his own (the splendidly enigmatic Krieps.) It’s easy to understand why the always reluctant Day Lewis would be tempted by such a part – that of a talented man, the leader in his field, consumed and even close to being swallowed by the art that drives every fibre of his being. If anyone was ever going to coin the phrase “method dressmaker” then it would surely apply to Day Lewis’ Reynolds Woodcock.  

But Anderson’s movie is so much more than a portrait of a creative mind, possibly in decline, but certainly always in some form of self inflicted turmoil. Firstly, his film brilliantly creates a mood and a tone so suited to its period and its rarefied view of the world in its opening minutes that the viewer is pulled into this world almost without noticing just how complete, and insular an environment it is.

Secondly, this is complimented by Day Lewis’ central performance, which – again almost instantly from his first few seconds on film – through voice and deportment, present the actor as another being, instantly believable but, more importantly, instantly involving (though not necessarily engaging) despite the aloof nature of the man.

We see him and his sister (a strong, supportive Manville) at breakfast accompanied by another woman, who presumably has had some form of attachment with haute couture designer Woodcock, but is now clearly on her way out.

With almost undue haste, this difficult man is off to the country and promptly finds himself what may well be his new muse, in the form of waitress Alma (Krieps.) Anderson is playing in the style of 1940s melodrama here, from the  speed of this relationship to the backgrounds behind Woodcocks’ jaunty little sportscar. All the better to understand his intentions – something that is aided and abetted by Johnny Greenwood’s splendid (and unexpected) lush orchestral score.

But as the movie develops, and Krieps’ innocent muse proves to be a match for her emotionally damaged designer, possibly even more than a match, Anderson’s movie unexpectedly shifts into more familiar melodrama territory, with more than a shade of Hitchcock’s Rebecca coming to the fore – something once again highlighted by Greenwood’s superb (and really should be nominated) score.

As the movie progresses, the performances grow in stature, even as the movie as a whole keep its restraint firmly in place, all the while edging us into some form of uncertainty that continues to surprise right up to the end.

Initially lyrical, Phantom Thread moves into being a quite disturbing look at the faces of obsession, unfurling itself brilliantly like the folds of the beautiful gowns its protagonist lives for.

Is it a contender? Oh, yes, it’s a contender.

Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread drops needle from Christmas Day


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