Paul Thomas Anderson directs Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville in this 1950’s fashion world drama observing the whispering power struggle between a renowned designer and his latest muse.
A lush movie – everything from the plonking score to the generous breakfasts to the measured pace (and obviously the convincing and gorgeous standout costumes) screams quality. Gripping yet bitingly funny. Kubrickian in both its sly wit, care of manufacture and glum view of humanity. Day-Lewis’ “last” performance may just be his finest. Reynolds Woodcock is a refined beast, timid yet definite in his words and movements and look, so that when his voice raises, when he curses, the invective is truly felt. The spoilt ogre appears from behind the beautiful masquerade, the shock is devastating and knowingly amusing, each and every time. His is among the most quotable of characters, a new cinematic icon. And yet DDL doesn’t walk away with the movie. Our protagonist is newcomer Krieps. She more than holds her own, the ingenue next to the towerhouse. Seducing him, and us, by refusing to be merely another disposable, discardable mannequin for him to pin his designs and fleeting affections on. You see her moving against the tide of the long established Woodcock cycle, overcoming the whirling pull through strength and guile. Just as Day-Lewis’ impeccable tyrant never loses his essential mystery to us, Krieps never succumbs into a stock femme fatale. Yes, she proves manipulative, deadly even, but we still root for her to carve out a new place in this long finished and varnished set. She utterly won me over, it is the first time I remember seeing an actor blush on screen. Her character’s, Alma, gambit of realising the outwardly strong man needs to be weakened, mothered, babied is risky but successful. A pessimistic summary of all relationships perhaps, you have to kill a bit off of the other person to make room for yourself to become a part of them? Is Phantom Thread a gothic romance? A satire on creativity? Or a decadent celebration of monogamy? Or even a ghost story… one appears in a fever dream, for sure. And doors open of their own accord, something undefined often lingers in the background. Like the finest movies, these layered secrets and the wilfully enigmatic finale, open it up for repeated viewings. PTA seems at his strongest when he gives up on his Altman inspired shaggy meanders and narrows in on one core pair of lovers… see also Punch Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood.
My Top 10 Daniel Day-Lewis Movies
1. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
2. Phantom Thread (2017)
3. In the Name of the Father (1993)
4. The Age of Innocence (1993)
5. There Will Be Blood (2007)
6. My Left Foot (1989)
7. The Crucible (1996)
8. Gangs of New York (2002)
9. A Room With a View (1985)
10. Lincoln (2012)