PHANTOM THREAD (2018) – CINEMA REVIEW!
Directed and written by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Produced by: Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison, JoAnne Sellar, Daniel Lupi
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville, Vicky Krieps, Julia Davis etc.
Music by: Jonny Greenwood
One of the great cultural pleasures in life is finding a new filmmaker and building a relationship with them over time. When I found myself watching the quirky low-budget film Hard Eight (1996) in the late 1990s, little did I know that that film would be the beginning of a cinematic friendship with Paul Thomas Anderson. It was only when the sublime 1970s-set-ensemble-drama Boogie Nights (1997) was released that I knew I was watching a filmmaker of incredible talent; and so with subsequent releases that came to pass.
Anderson, can certainly be described, to use old-fashioned film theory parlance, as an auteur. His films formally, technically and thematically all contain recurring tropes and stylistic devices. Although one could argue he leant on his cinematic influences within his earlier works before stamping his own inimitable style in later films. Indeed, films such as: Boogie Nights and Magnolia (1999) – with their talented ensemble casts, whipping camera-moves, over-lapping music montages and a whole host of disintegrating familial and romantic relationships – echoed the films of Robert Altman and Martin Scorsese. Moreover, at the core of his films are father and son relationships, where literal and quasi-parentage is explored. Similarly in Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood (2007) and The Master (2012) obsession, duplicity and dysfunctional family units are examined within their respective settings.
Anderson has worked a lot in the past. He has covered the 1900s with There Will Be Blood; 1950s with The Master; 1970s with Boogie Nights and strange stoner comedy Inherent Vice (2014). In his latest release, the exquisite Phantom Thread (2018) we are in 1950s London, following the elegant yet idiosyncratic life of fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock; portrayed with formidable zeal by Daniel Day Lewis. Anderson and Day Lewis are, like they were with the fierce Daniel Plainview, in complete control of this fascinating character. He is brilliant at his job but also very specific in how his work, staff and routine must go. When he meets a waitress, Alma, the impressive Luxembourg actor Vicky Krieps, the two become entwined within a less than straightforward employer-employee-lover-master-servant romance. Their complex relationship is driven by attraction, rivalry, pettiness, admiration and envy; propelling the drama as the two enter into an understated and curious battle of wills throughout the narrative.
Once again Paul Thomas Anderson, along with his incredible filmmaking team, has delivered a masterclass in cinematic storytelling with exceptional camera work, costume design, acting, lighting, plus a score to die for from Jonny Greenwood. I have to admit I was slightly alienated by Anderson’s last two films Inherent Vice and The Master due to the ambiguity of the lead characters. But I can certainly say that emotionally Phantom Thread works way better as an elegant mix of romance, thriller, character study and fashionista drama respectively. Throughout the magnificent 70mm cinema presentation I was mesmerized by the elaborate patterns my old “friend” Anderson has woven within.
Mark: 10 out of 11