Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread ★★★★★

First of all if you can, please see this in 70mm. I did at the AMC Lincoln Center in NYC with my good friend Ben Robey and had a blast. Plus they give you a cool little program book. 

Phantom Thread is Paul Thomas Anderson at his best. Each frame looks like a painting, and the dialogue is both beautiful yet haunting. 

Reynolds Woodcock is a very close minded man. He follows a set routine, with even the slightest disturbance throwing off his concentration. Woodcock is also a renowned dressmaker, as well as a self proclaimed bachelor. His lifestyle changes following the arrival of Alma, a waitress who Woodcock picks up one night as his new “muse”. The relationship slowly changes, disrupting the balance that he’s so used to. This film is very small in scope, focusing on the ever growing relationship between Reynolds and Alma. You see them at their best and at their worst. Clearly you can tell that Alma is much more of a lively spirit than Reynolds, yet they still are together. There’s a real power struggle between them. Reynolds has always been very dominant and demanding, fine tuning every part of the process. However, Alma won’t go down without a fight, and is as controlling as Reynolds. It’s this power struggle that makes this onscreen relationship so intriguing. Aside from the relationship aspect of the film, the environment around their relationship is very well written. The film is also surprisingly funny, with the audience laughing quite a few times. The supporting characters, namely Reynolds’ sister Ciryl, are very well written. Sure the main focus was on the relationship between Reynolds and Alma, but when the story calls for more characters the supporting cast doesn’t take a backseat. They play just as important of a role, and the film feels balanced because of that. The films plot never failed to entertain me, providing well written characters with some humor sprinkled in. This is definitely Paul Thomas Anderson’s most subdued film, but in a way it works for this type of film. The focus is on the relationship, with no big subplots or homages to the time period. 

Daniel Day-Lewis is fantastic as Reynolds Woodcock. Day-Lewis never fails to disappoint, immersing himself in his characters to the point where fiction and reality are blurred. The character of Reynolds feels like it was very personal to Daniel, seeing as he claimed he was depressed during and after the shoot because of the character. He gives an incredible performance, and is everything I could’ve hoped from him. If this truly is his final performance, then damn did he go out with a bang. The other standouts of the film is Vicky Krieps as Alma. She really holds her own against Day-Lewis, giving a powerful performance. I really do hope we see more of her in the future, because I do think that she is a fantastic young actress. Her and Day-Lewis also had great chemistry together, mostly due to the writing of their characters. Seeing them onscreen together, powerfully acting off of one another, was entertaining to watch, and added some authenticity to the relationship. Lesley Manville was also great as the stone cold Cyril. She’s the yin to Reynolds’ yang, balancing him out and also helping him make the “tough” choices. These three main actors are a huge part of why this film works, each one of them playing off each other well and each of them giving outstanding performances. 

Paul Thomas Anderson crafts a lush environment for these characters. The film is primarily set in a house where Reynolds and his team work creating dresses. Everything is very pristine and elegant, much like the dresses themselves. The production design and costume design are outstanding, each one contributing to the mood and feeling of the film. Another great element of this film is the cinematography. Granted there is no credit for cinematography, with Anderson claiming that it was a collaborative effort consisting of him and some other crew members. The film still looks stunning, with shots looking straight out of a painting. Viewing this in 70mm helped to get the most out of these beautiful images, with the vintage aesthetic and the way film looks contributing to the feel of the film. This is definitely Paul Thomas Anderson’s best film since There Will Be Blood, and I can’t wait to see what he does next, as he is one of the best modern directors out there. 

Regular Anderson collaborator and Radiohead member Jonny Greenwood crafts a score as beautiful and elegant as the rest of the film. From the lush orchestral melodies to some of the more downtempo piano tracks, Greenwood really outdoes himself in creating a score that compliments the film nicely. If you want to get a sense of what I’m talking about, go and listen to the track released a few days ago, “The House of Woodcock”. That track right there is a great example of what the score is like, and it’s just so damn great. 

Overall, Phantom Thread is a spellbinding look at a romance where what is usually normal and routine is suddenly disrupted. This is Paul Thomas Anderson at his best, as well as a fitting career end for Daniel Day-Lewis.

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