Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread ★★★★

The fussiest boy in the world (Daniel Day-Lewis) meets his match (Vicky Krieps) and together they battle delicate fabrics, tight deadlines and crude aristocrats while locking in a battle of wills and glances all their own. A devious little fairy tale in the key of PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (another self-conscious ‘minor work’ about love and masochism and sisters) and a period piece in name only. The film is attuned to all the right details (the socks, cars, clothes, tea) but casts aside the sweeping historical concerns of his more recent Americanas. Here the period is not the subject but the framework and window-dressing for the sneaky psychodrama playing out before our very eyes, an act of sleight of hand that befits a movie full of sly deceptions (a movie about fashion that’s actually about movies, etc). And yet this very framework (the ‘House’) and the attention paid to its structures and rhythms calls into question the whole enterprise: is he a genius, or is it the genius of the system? Phantoms abound, in various forms -- Alma (muse-model-partner), Cyril (producer-manager-surrogate mother), the ghostly apparition and inspiration of a dead mother, the always-quiet always-working crew of ladies who shuffle in and out of every scene and, you know, do the ACTUAL WORK of this domineering fussbudget -- Reynolds is nothing without them, though whether or not he realizes that is up for debate. PTA similarly is nothing without his own obsessions and spectres, both cinematic (Hitchcock, Ophuls, Sirk etc) and personal (Maya, Hollywood, production & collaboration etc), and in effect the film’s goofy, grinning conclusion only raises more questions about love and assimilation and needing to chill the fuck out. As in, has he? Has Reynolds? Has PTA finally found the right strain of weed? Or is this all an act of self-effacement? Either way, a hell of a time.

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