By Afra Nariman
Phantom Thread (2017)
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps
A famous dressmaker named Reynolds Woodcock (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) in 1950s London adheres by a strict schedule and standard way of living, until it is interrupted by a young woman named Alma (played by Vicky Krieps), who becomes his muse and lover.
As Paul Thomas Anderson’s career has progressed, it seems like his most recent films showcase that he has developed a more sophisticated command of his films, stemming from a developed, masterful grasp on filmmaking, compared to his earlier work, which was still spectacular. In Phantom Thread, we are given a story that adheres to a genre unlike anything else Anderson has made prior to it. It has brilliant cinematography, similar to what’s found in The Master. It has a powerful and mesmerizing soundtrack that radiates in the background, throughout most of film, similar to what we are given in Magnolia. And it has the captivating effectiveness of reaching the audience that is reminiscent of the effect administered by There Will Be Blood. Still — Phantom Thread is a truly unique piece of his filmography.
Not only is this film unique as a part of Anderson’s collective works; but it is also particularly unique within the sphere of the romance genre all together. The romance between Reynolds and Alma unfolds poetically on screen. It has a certain calmness to its execution, but a constant intensity that grabs hold of us in every moment. It feels captivatingly important.
It tells the story of a compulsively dedicated dressmaker who need full control of his surroundings at all times and a young woman, who unlike others, isn’t willing to just sit back and let Reynolds control her too. She is his muse. He loves her, and she loves him; but she wants to love her way. Reynolds knows immeditely that he’s found someone truly special in Alma. At an early moment in the film, when their love is still fresh and exciting, he says to her:
“I feel like I’ve been looking for you for a very long time.”
Just as their love is fresh, new, rare and exciting; as is the film’s place within the romance genre. Paul Thomas Anderson has created an unexplainably addictive cinematic experience.
Although it is a slow romance, Phantom Thread has a certain anticipatory factor that defines every minute of the film. What adds to its ability to be so intriguing, aside from the brilliant directing, cinematography and soundtrack, is that it is incredibly acted. Daniel Day-Lewis, in what he has claimed was his final film, has delivered yet another masterful acting performance; and Vicky Krieps matches him at every turn with her brilliant performance as well. Phantom Thread is both strange and beautiful, soothing and intense, sculpted and inspired, awkward and sophisticated, lovely and at times even a bit disturbing. It is one of Anderson’s best films yet.