Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps
Set in 1950’s London, Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover. (Source: IMDb)
Paul Thomas Anderson films are unmistakably an event, and one which Cinephiles will have marked in their calendars as soon as they’re announced. Phantom Thread is perhaps even more of a landmark occasion as it is reportedly the last screen performance from Daniel Day-Lewis after he announced his retirement from acting. If this is to be his swan song however, then there is no finer way to leave the silver screen, and it further cements what an extraordinary talent he is and how the film world will be a poorer place without him.
Perhaps one of the strangest compliments you could pay to Phantom Thread is that it isn’t PTA’s best film, yet it is still an absolute masterpiece. Such is the quality of his filmography that despite his latest being sheer perfection, it might just about make most people’s top 3’s.
Phantom Thread is an absolute masterclass in visual storytelling; every single frame feels sumptuous and gorgeous to look out, the clothing and material on display appearing so tangible that you feel you could reach out and touch them.
Paul Thomas Anderson is undoubtedly a master of his craft and what he has crafted in Phantom Thread is a thing of utter beauty, effortlessly flowing from floaty romance, to erotic drama, and via gothic horror, in a way that’ll make you wish all films were delivered this way. It is slow and measured but never laboured or dull, and the film is brimming with intrigue and mystery. It is a seductive striptease of a film, layer upon layer being peeled back to reveal something only more exquisite than the last. It is an experience that is hard to put in words but it somehow manages to feel both modern and classic; an utterly timeless piece of filmmaking.
It is surprisingly funny in places as well, the wry and acerbic tone being perfectly suited to the visual storytelling. The performances are all stellar, and the three leads perfectly interplay with each other and relish every single line. Rather than chewing the scenery, they savour the scenery, with each line delivered perfectly and precisely. Daniel Day-Lewis somehow manages a totally commanding performance whilst being so softly spoken that it defies all logic. He is able to communicate so much with a look, a pause, and a perfectly delivered line, and this may well be his best screen performance. Whilst her inclusion in the Oscar nominations may have surprised some, Lesley Manville not only proves she deserves the nomination but arguably she deserves the award as well, even though there’s some very stiff competition in this category.
What is so astonishing about this film is how Paul Thomas Anderson is able to craft one of the most lascivious, erotic films of the year without a single sex scene or glimpse of nudity. Much of the titillation comes from the pauses, the implicit rather than the explicit, and the dialogue which drips in the most delectably seductive manner and you’ll hang on every single word.
There’s so much to be appreciated in this film and a special mention to the score and sound design. Jonny Greenwood’s score is a character all in itself. As the nature of the central relationship unravels, the beautiful score reflects this; transitioning effortlessly from a tightly coiled, perfect symphony, to a steadily plummeting spool of cotton, discordant, chaotic and dramatic. The sound design is one of the hidden gems of this movie also; never has butter scraping on bread sounded so intense!
I saw this movie and you should too. 2018, you’ve peaked already, Phantom Thread you’re perfect, you’re beautiful, you’re a masterpiece.