By ARMAND BUTERA
Paul Thomas Anderson’s eighth cinematic outing “Phantom Thread” is another satisfying achievement for the writer/director, as well as a fitting swan song for Daniel Day Lewis’ long and impressive acting career. Set in London in the mid- 1950s, the lm analyzes the boundaries of love between two people from different backgrounds as well as the royal British scene of the time.
The lm follows renowned couturier Reynolds Woodcock, played by Lewis, and a young working class waitress Alma Elson, played by Vicky Krieps. Despite coming from different backgrounds, and being seemingly incompatible with one another, they strike up a relationship that is sometimes tense but always satisfying to watch.
Lewis’ character is eccentric and guarded, as he tailors not only the dresses the British elite fawn over, but his entire life in such a way that he has as little human contact as possible. His craft is his life, and he routinely ignores addressing issues in his personal life through constantly working.
Woodcock only seems to let his guard down when talking to his confidant and sister Cyril Woodcock, played by English actress Lesley Manville. Cyril, after presumably dealing with her brothers eccentricities all her life, ensures that her brother’s life remains structured and void of any disturbances.
Krieps plays the one disturbance that, ironically, Woodcock himself invites into his life. After she is asked to take up residency in the Woodcock household, Alma Elson adds much more than
a strong female presence to the lm. Elson is one of the most human characters in “Phantom Thread,” and adds a type of beauty that goes beyond the regal wear and high end decorations that are seen throughout the lm. Elson is the only character that does not submit to all of Woodcock’s demands, instead choosing to bring out the humanity in him as well, to various levels of success.
While everyone in the film does an excellent job, Krieps and Lewis deliver the most satisfying performances. Woodcock and Elson, each with their own desires and personalities, are wonderfully presented. For Krieps, who predominantly stars in French and German productions, Elson is a fantastic breakout role. For Lewis, the film offers a terrific final o er from the actor, who earlier in the year announced he would retire after this movie. If there ever was a strong lm to end an impressive career in acting on, “Phantom Thread” would be the one to do it, and Lewis achieved just that.
Anderson should also be credited for his engaging writing, as each scene feels important and worthwhile. He injects tension, humor and beauty into “Phantom Thread” without being overindulgent. When Woodcock and Elson are at odds, the argument feels very real while also showcasing each character’s different personalities. A passing glance or short exchange can be hilarious, and sometimes a silent scene in the lm can be incredibly moving. Subtlety is key in “Phantom Thread,” even down to composer Jonny Greenwood’s score (this is Anderson’s fourth collaboration with the composer, and one of his best).
Equally beautiful is the cinematography of “Phantom Thread.” From the dark cobbled London streets at midnight to the intimidatingly beautiful mansions of the British elite, everything is captured brilliantly. Anderson obviously has a keen eye for detail, and can make the viewer feel claustrophobic in the narrow hallway of the Woodcock residence or completely free in a neighboring vibrant green park. Woodcock is known for his immaculate dresses, so it is fitting that each one is perfectly captured in the film. Each scene is stitched together perfectly as if Woodcock himself made it, and is yet another notable achievement.
It’s telling that Anderson, as well as the talented actors and actresses of “Phantom Thread,” can take such common ideas in lm, like a love story between two people from different backgrounds as well as the creative and emotional struggles of an individual, and present them in a way that is fresh and wonderful. The lm manages to be emotionally engaging and visually striking, and is representative of the strengths of all who were involved in its making.
“Phantom Thread” is an immensely satisfying lm and one that acts as an important mark on the careers and legacies of all involved.