Phantom Thread (2017)



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Phantom Thread won the 2017 Oscar for best costumes, fitting since the film revolves around a London dressmaker. Reynolds Woodcock, Daniel Day-Lewis, is the creative force behind the House of Woodcock fashion house. His sister Cyril, Lesley Manville, runs the business and cycles Reynolds’ muses out of the house. Alma, Vicky Krieps, becomes Reynolds’s latest muse and refuses to leave to obey the eccentric artist's wishes.


Paul Thomas Anderson wrote and directed the film. He had prior experience with Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood. Daniel Day-Lewis is famous for living as his character before and during the shooting of a film. I’m not sure Daniel needed to do that here, I have a feeling he is already a pretentious artist that can be a dick a lot of the time.


The film is a battle between Alma and Reynolds. Reynolds is stuck in his rigid ways, demanding a silent breakfast without too much movement. Alma is more free-spirited and hopes to break some of Reynolds's habits. I am not entirely sure what her ideal end state is. The film also deals with dependency because Reynolds has never really grown up and has many childlike tendencies.


The costumes throughout the film are beautiful as is Reynolds car. Fashion took steps forward in the 1950s but Reynolds refuses to go along and instead makes classically beautiful dresses for wealthy clients in England and on the continent. The film is a feast for the eyes if you like dresses. The film was shot on 35mm film, so it is grainy throughout. I did not appreciate this choice because it led to compression and artifacts in the image when displayed on my TV.


Phantom Thread was not a movie for me. Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis both have signature styles that aren’t intended for a broad audience. They want to keep cinema elite and it can be off-putting. I am glad this film did not win the best picture Oscar, though I was not a fan of Shape of Water either. This film left me with more questions than answers and it was not all that enjoyable as it progressed to distract me from my growing list of questions. In the end, I was left with more unanswered questions and no understanding of Anderson’s intent.

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