Phantom Thread Movie Review

Phantom Thread is as detailed as its dresses

If you were to label director Paul Thomas Anderson's 2007 undisputed epic masterpiece 'There Will Be Blood' as a profound American success story, with a protagonist who is quite literally fueled by ego and wealth, Anderson's anti-hero, here, is quite literally embroidered with the very same defect. In 'There Will be Blood' Daniel Day Lewis plays a man who has stuck it rich in the turn of the century oil business yet is driven into insanity nearly mirroring Bogart's delusion and greed in 'The Treasure of Sierra Madre', as he regards those around him as encumbrance rather than piers. In 'Phantom Thread' Lewis' self obsession is mannered and personable, he may not bash your head in with a bowling pin, but do not let that fool you, his aura of cupidity and despicableness is still overpowering.

Day Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a courtier and a man of scrupulous routine. Take for example his odd intricacies, as every breakfast is as quiet and particular as your local library, where Woodcock perceives the buttering of toast as an act of treason and the murder of a perfectly fine morning. He oddly claims to be independent yet cannot live without his partner and sister Cyril or better known as "his old so and so". A forcible but polite woman who takes a liking to her brother's new-found love Alma(Vicky Krieps), who is of course, the facsimile of the perfect body for Woodcock's dresses. However, more importantly, is Krieps patent innocence as she becomes a vessel for not only the luminous beauty of the dresses, but for a contrast to her husband's flatulent materialism and lack of socialism. The two drive around 50's post-war London in a car as sleek and contrived as it's driver, exploring lush and distant landscapes to Johny Greenwood's deliberate and fantastical classical score that's crescendo plays to the two's mood and tempo.

There truly is something fantastical about the setting to which Anderson's world moves. The film is framed Kubrick esque and the pacing is nearly as brilliant as a Hitchcockian thriller, however, the film is essentially a melodramatic comedy, the former is seen through Woodcock's eyes the latter through Alma's. The film soon becomes a battle of equals, something that seems identifiable in today's discordant climate, but at its core, it's a love story. A woman's tenderness for a man, a man's amorousness to his job, and the devastating cliche of the ups and downs of marriage coincides. The push and pull relationship is never ending as the two find that they need each other, unearthing the brilliant chemistry between the dissimilar couple. Three time Academy Award winner Daniel Day Lewis is one of the greatest character actors, ever. In his final role, he transforms into this habituated artist with gravitas and poise, making the actor unrecognizable and the character concrete. It is said that Lewis is one of the most intimidating actors to work with, but newcomer Vickey Krieps doesn't flinch. Underneath her soft German accent and amiable virtue is a performance that is subtle and effective, and is sure to get under your skin.

We comprehend this in a scene involving mushrooms. Anderson plays with the camera, tension, and lighting in such a way that is captivating. As he lets Krieps innocence fade and her despair gush,  she prepares a dinner her husband will despise. The lighting is direct, the camera cuts between the two's evident expressions of angst, and will have you on the edge of your seat as if we meandered into the dinner scene from Hitchcock's 'Rope'. This would not be the first time the five time nominated Oscar director has played with genre, but it certainly is the most effective. Scenes as thoughtful and tasteful as this one make up 'Phantom Thread's' two hour and ten-minute run-time. From a radiant and capacious New Year's Eve extravaganza to sleek lightless encounters in a claustrophobic mansion (this is due to exceptional camerawork from a non-credited cinematographer) the film is always atmospheric and beautiful. Much like the dresses that are at the center of this masterwork, Anderson has wove near perfect art that boasts color, character, and style that has some mystery and secrets of its own hidden in the linings of its garments.