“Phantom Thread,” dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
Set in the glamour of 1950’s post-war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock and his sister Cyril are at the center of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutants and dames with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Women come and go through Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover. Once controlled and planned, he finds his carefully tailored life disrupted by love.
Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the greatest directors working today. He has a unique voice as a filmmaker that instantly captivates with seemingly any genre. With every project he tackles, he delves deep into the psychology of his characters, whether they be a porn star dealing with fame, a high detective attempting to crack a mystery, or in this case a fashion designer fixated on his craft whilst distracted by love.
“Phantom Thread” is yet another impeccable film to add to Paul Thomas Anderson’s remarkable resume, but it’s truly unlike anything he’s done before. While appearing to be a traditional period romance on it’s surface, the overall tone as this relationship between Reynolds and Alma unfolds can drastically change on a dime, going from lovely to hilarious to unsettling at any given moment. In most cases, other films would begin to fall apart from those shifts in tone, but there’s a natural flow here that always keeps the narrative emotionally investing and fresh.
It was announced earlier this year that this will mark the final performance for Daniel Day-Lewis. Needless to say that if he does indeed retire after this, it is one hell of a way to go out. Unlike his Academy Award winning turn in the last Paul Thomas Anderson film he acted in, “There Will Be Blood,” his performance is understated and meticulous, yet pierces through the soul. Every nuanced look or delivery of dialogue is enthralling. He is guaranteed to earn yet another Oscar nomination this year.
Day-Lewis is beautifully matched with his wonderful co-star, Vicky Krieps, who steals every scene she’s in. Her radiant screen presence playing Alma helps form what is easily one of the years most fascinating characters. Her independence and differing ideology from Reynolds make for compelling conflicts as these two minds continue to clash as the film progresses.
Needless to say that this film is a visual marvel to behold. Paul Thomas Anderson himself did the cinematography, marking only the second time after “The Master” that he didn’t have his frequent collaborator, Robert Elswit. The 35mm imagery here is striking, paired with what just might be the best score composer Jonny Greenwood has crafted to date. Every aspect on a technical level is as beautiful as the elegant costume design.
This is a movie that is best seen knowing as little as possible. There are many surprises that Paul Thomas Anderson injects into not just the story but the way in which that story is told. So to avoid the risk of revealing too much, all that must be said now is that “Phantom Thread” is a stunning achievement in what has been an exceptional year in film. It is a must-see this holiday season and an outstanding example of the brilliant mind of one of cinema’s most gifted directors.
Are you excited to see “Phantom Thread?” Were you fortunate enough to attend one of the early screenings in New York or Los Angeles? Let me know your thoughts down below in the comments section.
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