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By midlandsmovies, Mar 1 2018 09:38AM

Phantom Thread (2018) Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

After failing to enjoy the director’s previous two films – The Master was a long drawn out essay of a film whilst Inherent Vice’s incoherent voice reflected the muddled novel – Paul Thomas Anderson has returned with a film set amongst high couture fashion and is also his first work made in England.

Located in London during the 1950s, acting legend Daniel Day-Lewis plays dress-designer Reynolds Woodcock who creates fabulous clothes for a series of high class clients. His obsessions are alleviated when, during a trip to the countryside, he meets seemingly innocent waitress Alma who swiftly moves in with him – and his sister Cyril – to become his muse and lover.

Day-Lewis begins with a gentle voice and mild countenance which hides his compulsive disorders and routines. With his new love testing him along the way, their tempestuous relationship gives birth to clashes when he is forced to deviate from his well-established daily affairs.

From his first breakfast order – Woodcock gleefully orders the longest list of items this side of a British fry-up – to his attempts to recover a dress from an embarrassing socialite, the director also infuses the dark romance with a surprising amount of comedy. Heck, even his name “Woodcock” is both a simple pun, as well as representing his hard resolve in his art, sexual desires and his puffy self-important nature.

Although the methodical camerawork and beautifully framed scenes reflect the precise nature of Woodcock’s wardrobe creations, the film excels during the squabbles and quarrels of the two protagonists. Alma is played brilliantly by Vicky Krieps who, at first, appears timid and coy but is soon pressing Woodcock’s buttons with her bold observations as an outsider. As Woodcock obsesses over his mother, and his sister trying to focus him on his work, themes of family consume the artist, yet he is forever fixated on his need for inspiration.

Attempting to please his clients, his familial legacy and maintain a connection with Alma, scenes of violent verbal sparring are juxtaposed against the more sombre sketching and crafting moments. As Alma is pushed to her limits, she commits an act of personal sabotage that sees Woodcock both vulnerable and then injected with a new found motivation. The film continues its twisted themes as Woodcock attempts to recapture that rush of rejuvenation which solidifies their relationship rather than destroy it.

With high quality acting, directing and the gorgeous clothing the film’s technical aspects are first class and offer a treatise on mania and creation. Phantom Thread explores the idea that true inspiration and creativity develops when recognising our own mortality and by only pushing oneself to the extremes do we come close to perfecting our passions. Recommended.


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