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Phantom Thread: Review

Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest motion picture — soon to be succeeded by anticipated 2021 project Soggy Bottom — exquisitely captures the vibrant stages of love and kinship, in a most warped fashion. Pun most definitely intended as one of our main protagonists is none other than a renowned fictitious fashion designer of glamorous 1950s London.

Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is the epitome of the cursed genius. The price of genius is already in itself a relatively unpleasant one to pay. Couple it with the firmly rooted impression of a curse looming over in the depths of Woodcock’s mind, and you get a personage most detestable and somewhat irritating, despite being the creative individual that he is.

When he meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), a youthful waitress, Reynolds finds his next muse. Little does he know Alma is impressionable, but far from being dull-witted. When it begins to dawn on her that she’s most likely to end up in the garbage as previous muses were before her, Alma devises a strategy to ensure she’ll always remain firmly settled by Reynolds’ side.

An important element that makes this film as entrancing and whimsical as it is, is the performances given by its delightfully outstanding cast. Needless to deliver a Shakespearean soliloquy on the talents of the impeccable Daniel Day-Lewis.

Known for being utterly dedicated to his craft, to the point of completely transforming into another person, Day-Lewis doesn’t disappoint. In preparation for the film, he underwent a visceral study of 1940s/1950s fashion, learnt to sew, and consulted with Cassie Davies-Strodder, then (2013-2017) curator of fashion and textiles at the Victoria and Albert museum in London. It was after working on Phantom Thread that Lewis decided to retire, and we can safely say he went out with a bang.

However, the real show stopper here is the eye-catching Vicky Krieps. No sooner have you taken even but a glance at her that you are uncontrollably drawn to Alma, fixated on every single move, every twitch, wince, sneer — indeed one only desires from this moment forth to revel in her raw, mystical, unpolished yet subtle and heartfelt performance. After a ten-year-long career, Krieps remains someone who prioritises small budget, independent productions which still allow her to lead a private and anonymous life. As she stated in an interview with L’Officiel, keeping herself away from all of Hollywood’s blistering noise is paramount; a wish coincidently shared by the character she portrays on screen.

Of course, an honourable mention for Lesley Manville’s portrayal of Cyril (Reynolds’ sister) is mandatory. Her role is key in the development of our protagonists’ arcs, therefore little will be said regarding Cyril’s part in the Woodcock household that could potentially impede further enjoyment of the film. Suffice to declare the sheer brilliance and accuracy of her character’s portrayal. She oozes charisma, elegance, and a ruthlessness that commands authority. Beware, you don’t want to pick a fight with her.

Why should you give Phantom Thread — a three year old film — a watch now?

The idea of sinking inside a fairytale seems rather appealing, and what greater story to dive into than that of love, smeared with quite a large order at breakfast and sprinkled with a pinch of toxin to revive the spirit? You might get ideas on how best to prepare a mushroom tea (I’m afraid not the kind you’re thinking about), or a mushroom omelette for that matter, with the intention of keeping your loved ones as close as you can this winter. Though (spoilers) they could be slightly inconvenienced and maybe even bed-ridden.

Furthermore, the cinematography is simply glorious, which is remarkable considering the fact there was absolutely no cinematographer involved in the making of the picture. Anderson’s Director of Photography, Robert Elswit, was unavailable due to a scheduling clash. Thus, the major part of pre-production was spent working closely with the set’s technical team and testing an array of film camera equipment such as the Kodak 50D, Kodak 200T, and Kodak 500T. The latter was used for most of the film, as it successfully achieved a more convincing, textured 50s look. A Low Con filter was additionally used, which resulted in lower saturation, soft highlights, and more prominent film grain. All these elements contribute to making Phantom Thread a ravishing love story, interlaced in glamour woven through perniciousness.

One last thing. The story depicted in the film should not be advised as a guide on ‘partner safe keeping’ and the above mentioned mushroom recommendations are to be taken with a pinch of salt. Indeed, Jonny Greenwood’s score might lull you to a sweet and delicate slumber, but don’t let yourself be fooled by an appealing decorum.

To be enjoyed in your greatest silk taffeta gown and a pot of lapsang tea.

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