Justin Peterson’s review published on Letterboxd:
The subtle horror of romantic manipulation.
Paul Thomas Anderson (PTA) is among the finest Directors in the game today, with 'There will be Blood' being among my favorite movies. You can certainly tell that PTA takes inspiration from Stanley Kubrick in his films, and I would say his latest work Phantom Thread reminded me of Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. Especially with the english manners, and there is even a candle lit scene.
This is the second time the great actor Daniel Day-Lewis has teamed up with PTA, and saying the Mr. Day-Lewis is among the greatest actors ever is an understatement. In this role he plays a meticulous fashion designer in 1950s London who is extremely set in his ways, and the slightest disturbance can totally derail his mindset. His sister played by Lesley Manville helps run his fashion empire and really knows what makes him tick. But when he meets his new girl friend played Vicky Krieps, we discover that despite his idiocentric nature, she will do whatever it takes to become his equal.
With manners being so critical, PTA does an awesome job at nailing the sound design where he makes the crunch of a knife against bread sound like nails down a chalk board.
The camerawork of course is excellent and features many close up shots, which reminded me of another artsy film from this year, 'Mother!' Watching these two movies really gives you an appreciation for the beauty of film grain with the softer picture and mood it presents, showing that not every film needs to look like digital animation.
There is little about the fashion industry or dress making that really gets my attention, but this film make it look stunning. Alma in these dresses and the shots of all the seamstresses dressed all in white working hard to create these designs is simply majestic.
I remember the music sounding great and really diverse, but I really need to watch this again in order to tune into all the technical details.
This is a slow tension filled look at a relationship drowning in the prudish manners of high society. Filled with back handed compliments, turned up noses, and just straight up rudeness. It was funny to me that I was likely the only person in my theater under the age of 60.
So forced submission is ultimately what it takes for Krieps character Alma to gain the upper hand. By poisoning him with mushrooms, she is able to 'mother' him during his resulting sickness. That scene where he sees the vision of his mother standing in his room in her wedding gown, as Alma tends to his needs was truly chilling. When building up to this moment PTA perfectly separates the cause and effect of the mushrooms going into the tea enough to where we forget about the poison, and get an 'Ah-ha' moment when we finally piece the moment together when he finally collapses. That shot looking thru the tea as she puts in the crushed up mushrooms was genius.
This submission she forces him into makes his heart sore and leads them to get married. We are then reminded again how opposite they are, which leads to yet another forced submission. This time she even tells him what is happening, but he apparently desires this debilitating state and submits to it willing. Wow, that mushroom omelet looked yummy! This end sequence felt pretty complex, and I look forward to soaking it in more on a second watch.
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