Make no mistake: Phantom Thread is a masterpiece.
Paul Thomas Anderson Is not a director who has taken the well-trodden path. He has been writer-director on several feature films, of which this is his eighth. He has written a script of exquisite subtlety, depth and dramatic tension, and cast it to perfection.
Rumoured to be Daniel Day-Lewis’s last film, he gives a career-topping performance as Reynolds Woodcock. A classic 1950s dress designer of the Hardy Amies variety, Woodcock is surrounded by beautiful women. He occasionally gets into relationships with them, only to tire of them and have his ever-present sister, Cyril, give them their marching orders. Played by the always wonderful Lesley Manville, Cyril is a complex bundle of loyalty, jealousy, bitterness and odd warmth. The very ordered and systematic lives of brother, sister and House of Woodcock employees is thrown into turmoil when Reynolds meets his next muse, Alma, played with outstanding delicacy by Luxembourg-born Vicky Krieps. So begins the handiwork of stitching, unpicking and embroidering the fabric of eroticism, passion, possession and love.
As the background of most of the story is a classic couturier’s atelier, kudos must go to set decorator Veronique Melery, whose attention to detail in haberdashery and mercery adds enormously to the richness of the work. Mark Bridges’s outstanding costume designs give us House of Woodcock gowns which could make a grown woman weep. He has garnered a well-deserved Oscar nomination, as has Jonny Greenwood for the heart-achingly wonderful score. Every scene in this film is beautiful to look at, and beautiful to listen to.
This is not a frivolous work. Although redolent of films such as Funny Face, this is not just sophisticated romance and frocks. This is dark, erotic, disturbing and gripping. It is a work of rare cinematic perfection. It is not for the faint-hearted, or for those looking for a light, fun, couple of hours at the movies. But for those looking for cinematic art that provokes, moves and stays with you for days afterwards, they need look no further.
Phantom Thread opens tomorrow.
Check out the official site here.