Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread ★★★★½

Really glad I waited until I could see this on 70mm. I swear I could smell that omelet in the pan. I knew it could kill me, and I still wanted to eat it. What can I say? I'm a hungry boy.

Formally this seems like a reining-in of style and scale from Inherent Vice and The Master, but it's really a potent distillation by way of chamber drama. Anderson's camera placement and movement have never been more purposeful and elegant. The continuous flow of Dylan Tichenor's editing (particularly the long dissolves) creates an intoxicating rhythm. Then there are images that resonate as microcosms of the film's austere emotional universe, like Reynolds speeding down country roads, the camera perched on the hood showing the interior of the car through the windshield as quiet and still while the exterior rattles ominously. Or the scene where Reynolds first tells Alma he loves her before proposing, which starts with a wide shot of the atelier in which an opulent wedding dress takes up half the frame. As the scene plays out, Anderson slowly pushes in on the pair, crowding out the dress and suggesting the exchange of one vision of romantic bliss for a very different one.

The way this gradually transformed into a sort of gothic romance of faces and domesticity, Rebecca as conceived by Terence Davies, snuck up on me, though in retrospect it's telegraphed from the beginning - as Cyril, Lesley Manville's presence is Mrs. Danvers-esque from her first appearance, and Anderson shoots her confronting the camera head-on only moments after Reynolds has voiced his disdain for confrontation. Yet when something like a ghost manifests later in the film, there is no hint of the spectral about her. She appears as solid as the woman opening the door next to her. Perhaps the "air of quiet death" implies a house filled with ghosts - when Alma sends everyone out so that she can surprise Reynolds with dinner, Reynolds reacts as though she had banished Cyril for good, or exorcised her spirit from the house. Anderson also treats Reynolds' work like a form of possession, in which his creations seem to hover in wait on mannequins before overwhelming and transforming the women who try them on. One of my favorite shots in the film is the view from below of Alma eagerly entering a dress arms and head first, less like she's putting on clothes than diving into a sea of fabric. After experiencing the supernatural power of the dresses firsthand, she bonds most intimately with Reynolds by sharing his appreciation of it, and starts to wield it herself, a transformation Vicky Krieps plays with exquisite subtlety. She removes the "never cursed" tag from the wedding dress, as though putting a curse on it herself. She enters the room in which Reynolds and Cyril confer about her without making a sound, nigh impossible in a house where even scraping butter on toast reverberates. And she bends Reynolds to her will like a witch, using poisonous mushrooms to make him surrender to her love. She tells him "You need to settle down a little" like she's casting a spell. Yet in the final moments of the film, the extent to which he is aware and accepting of her influence over him, as well as that to which she is manipulating him out of a desire for revenge or love, becomes as hauntingly ambiguous as ever, right before it's all suddenly swept up in one of the most swooning, unabashedly romantic lines/embraces/musical cues in recent cinema. I can't wait to see this again.

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