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  • Writer's pictureGuy Jeffries

Phantom Thread

Paul Thomas Anderson writes and directs his first feature set and filmed outside America. But it’s his second collaboration with Day-Lewis ten year on after the highly acclaimed There Will Be Blood. A film I wasn’t so keen on and will probably have to rewatch again with a different head on.

This film tells a story about a Reynolds Woodcock, a fabricated yet incredibly believable dressmaker of the highest couture society and royalty of the world; set in 1950s around London and the English countryside. A character written for and uncreditedly co-written by Day-Lewis, said to be inspired by the monastic life of Spanish fashion master, Cristóbal Balenciaga and by American’s first couturier, Charles James’ impeccable artistry and erratic behaviour.

Woodcock, a self-proclaimed incurable bachelor, played by Day-Lewis, is an obsessive, particular and absolute perfectionist in every aspect of his life, including breakfast; wholly intolerant of any of the slightest interruption in his normal, controlled routine. But these traits and behaviours only express half of his meticulous personality, as we witness his incredible and passionate talent as a dressmaker. But during one of his retreats into the English coastline he sets his eyes upon a waitress, Alma, some years his junior and sets about making her his latest muse and assistant, initiating their love affair and his possible decline.

Day-Lewis is his usual outstanding self. He appears to be the only actor I am comfortable in saying, he is totally unrecognisable from all of his previous roles. I struggle to believe this is the same actor who plays The Butcher from Gangs of New York, My Left Foot, Last of The Mohicans and There Will Be Blood. His method acting is at its finest, himself learning to sew, studying 1940 - 1950s fashion and apprenticed with the New York City Ballet’s Marc Happel for a period of time; and reportedly stayed in character throughout production, insisting on fellow cast and crew members to refer to himself as Reynolds. But this is possibly his final role after publicly announcing his likely retirement from acting, with a relative short filmography of 29 credits to his name. Could this really be the last of Day-Lewis on the big screen?

The supporting cast of mainly Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville are equally brilliant with Krieps playing the impressionable and needy Alma and Manville as Reynolds’ sister and presumed front-of-House manager, Cyril. Manville was screen stealing and was my personal favourite for winning the Oscar for best supporting actress and I wanted to see more of her character exercise the story’s robust script.

The script is brilliant, that delivers it’s impact like a beautifully hemmed dress but without being totally overdramatised, giving way to realism over dramatics. But Day-Lewis and Manville have the best lines which purposefully places Krieps’ character out of place, when she’s trying to fit in and seek approval. Beside the performances, it’s the script that tells this story flowing, even if at slow pace for a runtime of 130minutes.

The direction is superbly stitched together with a purposeful haze added to give the film that imperfect feel. The production and the obvious costumer design is crucial to this film and the dress making and modelling sequences are impressively intricate. It’s unsurprising the costume design won Oscar and BAFTA awards and would have been ironic if it had not.

Jonny Greenwood’s score seems unfitting at times but I think that was purposefully and the score in isolation is an amazing piece of classic music with strings and piano duets; each suite representing a mood or atmosphere of the film such as the Sandalwood and the Phantom Thread suites, with individual tracks for key particular scenes.

Though not going to be for everyone’s taste or pace, it’s unsurprising that film received 6 Oscar nominations, wining best costume design. But whilst the subject matter might not interest many people, the talent here is nothing short of outstanding; for heavy drama fans only.

Running Time: 7

The Cast: 9

Performance: 10

Direction: 9

Story: 8

Script: 10

Creativity: 10

Soundtrack: 8

Job Description: 8

The Extra Bonus Point: 0

79% 8/10

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