Phantom Thread
dir-scr Paul Thomas Anderson
prd Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison, Daniel Lupi, JoAnne Sellar
with Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville, Sue Clark, Joan Brown, Harriet Leitch, Dinah Nicholson, Julie Duck, Camilla Rutherford, Brian Gleeson, Harriet Sansom Harris, Gina McKee
release US 25.Dec.17, UK 2.Feb.18
17/UK Focus 2h15
Phantom Thread
Final touch: Krieps and Day-Lewis

manville sansom-harris mckee
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Phantom Thread In this 1950s British drama, Paul Thomas Anderson deploys a Technicolor archness to wash everything in gothic romanticism, raising both earthy emotions and Hitchcockian intrigue. It's an extraordinary film, perhaps a bit too mannered to escape the arthouse circuit, but so finely crafted and expertly played that it can't help but get deep under the skin.

In a Bloomsbury townhouse, Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) carefully crafts lavish gowns for society's wealthiest women. His business is managed by his deadpan sister Cyril (Manville), with a team of seamstresses busy in the attic atelier. Then on the seaside he meets waitress Alma (Krieps), and instantly charms her into becoming his muse. But their path to romance is anything but smooth, as she bristles against his fussy lifestyle and callous attitudes. She also tussles with Cyril in household decision-making. So Alma decides to quietly take more severe action.

This is the kind of film that suddenly twists in unexpected directions, then twists even further. And the way events play out is more hypnotic than shocking, silently gripping the audience with unspoken thoughts that hint at various possibilities. Anderson shot this himself on film, giving the movie a gloriously grainy sheen that layers bold colours over the creamy sets. And Jonny Greenwood's cascading piano score adds brilliantly to the moody tone.

The three main actors each add layers of interest to their characters, stirring in wry humour and unsettling motivations. Day-Lewis brings Reynolds to vivid life as an artist whose old world charisma is bundled with a nervous collection of obsessions. He hates the expectations people place on him, and can't bear unnecessary noise. Krieps cleverly underplays the ways Alma both grates on his nerves and meets his needs, while having her own emotional journey. And Manville shines as a sardonic woman who sees everything, making her iron will known without raising even an eyebrow.

As these characters circle around each other, the film bracingly explores the razor sharp line between love and hate, as well as control and submission. Where the plot goes is deliberately unnerving, but it's also eerily mesmerising as it leads to an uneasy satisfaction. It's not completely clear if Anderson's goal was to explore the awkward collision of artistic vision and personal connections (is it autobiographical?), but this is a rare film that gets our minds spinning and leaves us with a lot to think about. Not to mention the chills it sends up and down the spine.

cert 15 themes, language 26.Nov.17

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Phantom Thread Kallie Wilbourn, Las Vegas, New Mexico: 4.5/5 I too found this film mesmerizing: the close up intricate actions of fitting cloth to person, sewing, intimate speech drew me inside the life of an artist who refuses to compromise with others' needs, unless he meets wills as iron-clad as his own (those of Cyril and Alma). The performances here never break the spell, are fully alive though unusually quiet, even when the actors are telling each other off or collapsing. My only question came when Lewis's character sat in the kitchen. Would this artiste sit in a kitchen while someone cooks for him? And yes, there's a very thin line between love and hate here, as in real life. (20.Sep.18)

© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall