Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread ★★★★½

I watched this film first in the cinema in 70mm and I was enthralled by it then as I am by it now. Paul Thomas Anderson’s genius is being able to be America’s foremost filmmaker and auteur while making every one of his films both a finely choreographed and engineered piece of art that manages to still have the aroma of improvisation, collaboration and finding itself amongst the edit. 

All PT Anderson’s cinematic flourish is entirely serving to the characters in the film and every scrap of dialogue is a patchwork of poetry and a window into pockets of human behaviour caught in a snapshot of another time. While I prefer the relentless candour of Magnolia and the unhinged tension of The Master, not a single of his movies doesn’t have an absolute powerhouse performance; truly an actors director; Daniel Day-Lewis did well to stave off his retirement for this last hurrah, one it’s clear that he had as much of a hand in the build of as Anderson. 

Vicky Krieps as Alma is not the wallflower she first appears, she’s just cautious, with a curiosity brooding and brimming inside of her, like a fresh mannequin just brought to life and with no desire to be rendered inert and forgotten again. There is a rebellion and spirit that is an aloof breath of fresh scent. And Lesley Manville‘s Cyril’s is darkly comic, both women fully fleshed, powerful and motivated, and yet two halves of Woodcock himself. 

Eccentric and spirited, Phantom Thread has a welcome whiff of gothic romance to it; it’s intrinsically about master craftspeople and artists; muse and inspiration and control and masculinity. It plays like watching a conversation unfold between two other people at a nearby table, it’s unknowable and entirely mysterious, you’re somewhat able to project on to it and you can pretend you can understand some of it, yet it’s there merely existing as a backdrop, a memory, a story, an experience.

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