Saturday, 24 February 2018

Phantom Thread (2017)

There are times when I remember that I have yet to see a couple of movies from Paul Thomas Anderson and then kick myself for my oversight. Mainly because I OWN The Master, I just haven't given myself the time to watch it yet. Seeing Phantom Thread was certainly a reminder that I love his work, because this is another almost perfect movie.

At the centre of it all is a flawless performance (his last?) from Daniel Day-Lewis, playing Reynolds Woodcock. Woodcock is a celebrated designer of dresses, the name everyone wants to be wearing on their biggest days. He is also, in his own words, a confirmed bachelor. He finds himself interested in women, but only in the ways they inspire him to create more dresses. Or so it seems. The one constant woman in his life is his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), but things get shaken up a bit when he finds a more fiery muse than usual in the shape of Alma (Vicky Krieps).

I'm going to try to restrain myself until I revisit this film for another couple of viewings, which I will, but my first thought as the credits rolled was that I had just watched ANOTHER masterpiece from Anderson. And, considering I had initially been reluctant to give this one my time (mistakenly assuming the film would just be a rather sedate look at the life of a dressmaker), that came as a bit of a surprise.

Everything works, with the exception of a few of the scripted lines of dialogue that feel a little bit forced. Anderson is as assured as ever in his roles behind the camera (he both wrote and directed this), the quality of the design and detailing shines through in every scene, the score by Jonny Greenwood works wonderfully with the visuals, and the tone is allowed to be quite serious while also allowing for small moments of comedy, sometimes very dark comedy.

That's all well and good, and would be enough to make this a pleasure to watch, but the trio of lead performances takes it all to another level. Day-Lewis clearly assumed that this role would allow him to end his acting career with another Oscar, and I hope there's a chance it may (time will tell). Awards or not, his turn here is up with his very best, and that's saying something. I wasn't familiar at all with Krieps, who deserves almost an equal amount of praise for holding her own alongside Day-Lewis in a way that seems effortless. And Manville makes the most of her key scenes, allowed to ebb and flow as the script requires.

What plays out as a film looking at the drive and focus of an artist also says a hell of a lot more. Phantom Thread is about creating, it's about finding inspiration, and yet it's also about finding yourself matched with someone you only realise you need when you see aspects of yourself buried within them. The old saying tells us that opposites attract. Phantom Thread shows that it can just as often be the similarities that create a stronger bond for some people.

I want to try and say more about the film, but I can't. Even the title is incorporated in the narrative as a telling character moment, something with more than one meaning that becomes obvious once it has been discussed. Yeah, I am pretty sure I will be upping my rating to a 10 further down the line. Not yet though, not quite yet.


You can buy it here.
Or Americans can buy it here.

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