Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread ★★★★½

It's kind of a chamber piece when you think about it, since it hardly ever leaves the House of Woodcock, and when it does (on New Year's Eve) the effect is almost violently jarring; there are all these allusions to Rebecca, but as claustrophobic as Manderley was, we knew Monte Carlo and London were trapdoors for the characters, in practice or in memory. The waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps, redeeming her character's supposed lack of a history by writing one in her face, as expressive and infinite and ambiguous as Lisbeth Movin's in Day of Wrath) is harnessed as a mannequin, to be pored over with detached enthusiasm and rebuked whenever she steps out of the template, and wedged into the impossibly stuffy and intimate, perfectly cautious and tense home of the renowned dress designer Reynolds (Daniel Day-Lewis, who's brilliant, but less remarkable than either of his costars, which honestly is impressive considering how easily he dominates other movies) and his quietly seething, judgmental sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), who's every bit as much Lil in Marnie as Mrs. Danvers. Like the Hitchcock films it looks upon as inspiration, though, this is far more complex than a morally righteous Gaslight-style story of a toxic relationship; this is about a duel of control between an impassioned artist with troubled-genius syndrome and a woman whose potential power over him is greater, and more enticing, than he could ever have imagined. The film looks and sounds beautifully, sumptuously old -- it's a strange thing to single out, but the lonely sound of a woman's voice informing her employees they'd have to stay and work on a dress all through the night shot me back to a different world as though I were half-asleep in a time machine -- but it's also a porn film and an uproarious comedy, as deliriously fun and disorienting as Inherent Vice -- but unlike that film, a model of restraint, tension. Its finale is particularly glorious, a kind of six-decades-overdue rebuke of Room at the Top and a zillion other movies about the hopelessness of romantic love. In all its strikes against the relationship it depicts, Phantom Thread is finally a celebration of bridging gaps, of the sudden jolt of understanding between two people who've discovered not only that they can walk on hot coals together and come out the other side, but that they already have.

Jonny Greenwood's previous scores for Anderson have been impressive, at times masterful, but this is beyond that; it's one of the finest I have ever heard, and a reminder of how transcendently intoxicating film music can be. I was never prouder of my twelve year-old self for digging The Bends so much.

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