The cinema’s worst villain to-date, noisy toast. I think we can all agree on that…

PHANTOM THREAD

Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson

Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson

Featuring:  Daniel Day Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Leslie Manville, Harriet Leitch, Brian Gleeson

Reynolds Woodcock, with the stern advice and backing of his sister, Cyril, is a haute-couture dress designer to film stars, royalty and the great and good in the 1950s, his The House of Woodcock is the very pinnacle of style. Women seem to be a passing fancy in his life until one day he meets the enigmatic Alama who seems to be his muse and then becomes his lover. Reynold’s life is like his well-tailored and perfect creations, everything meticulously fits together perfectly and to his exacting standards and ideas, Alama changes all of this. The question is can Reynolds, Alma and Cyril survive this disruption without something breaking for good?

Phantom Thread in some way much like the topic of the film seems to be well-crafted, subtle and feels classy, if they can be applied to the overall feeling of a film. Certainly the cinematography, settings and custom work can be considered beautiful and should keep the viewer’s interest as the film progresses. All of this of course is window-dressing (no pun intended) if the story and acting holds our interest less. I can easily see how many would be turned off by the slow burning story of an uptight and picky man who is obsessed with making dresses but for others the whole premise of the story keeps you enthralled. What is going on? Who are these characters? Is that not the basis of any drama? Paul Thomas Anderson asks these questions, answers few and never drinks your milkshake, you see what you come up with when the film ends. This is no bad way to write a story or make a film.

Anderson likes his silences and characters who are not related in any way to Basil Exposition, and this is present in Phantom Thread. He also has a skill of making what are obviously not particularly nice characters somehow ‘okay’. Daniel Day Lewis, in his last film apparently, helps on this score showing why many consider him to be the greatest actor of his generation never showy but always on point with the character and how he behaves, subtle but superb and an exceedingly difficult skill to pull off.

The casting in the film helps its strong showing, Day Lewis is clearly not going drag anything down, but he is more than match by the Vicky Krieps who is truly enigmatic throughout to the point you are never really sure what is driving her throughout the running time. Both performances are shored up by the ever-reliable Lesley Manville showing her chameleon-like ability by playing an utterly different role than you have seen her in before to perfection. She gets the unsympathetic role as the cold, controlling, Cyril. Truth be told all three characters are equally enigmatic and will leave you scratching your head from time to time. Bizarre in this instance is good.

Jonny Greenwood scored the film and although personally for me there was perhaps too much music throughout the running time unsubtly driving moods there was an effort to make the music blend into the background from time to time.

Possibly the most frustrating part of the film is just trying to figure out what you have seen and what the director/writer is trying to say. Is the title Phantom Thread referring to the love we all need that runs through us all? Is the love we need so strong it can override reason and the strongest will, is the need to control…. well, I could go on forever be told I do not know what I am talking about by Paul Thomas Anderson or any of the actors who took part or someone else who saw the film.

I am not sure what I really watched but this is the strength of the film not a weakness, I really liked the slow burn, the strange characters, particularly of Reynolds, and what I got from the film.

This I believe is the secret of Anderson’s ambiguity in general, it is what I got from the film, I am sure my wife who watched it with me got something else and I am sure you get another meaning from the story.

This is a great thing, to be applauded.

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