A deep dive into the world of high fashion houses in 1950's London is the setting for Director Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film Phantom Thread. In Thomas and actor Daniel Day-Lewis you have a paring unequaled in their ability to immerse themselves in a subject. Mix in little known to North American audiences Vicky Kripis the Luxembourgian actress whose previous work has mainly been in French and German cinema as the muse and British stage and screen Grand Dame Leslie Manville to complete the four sturdy pillars supporting the project. Day-Lewis is Reynolds Woodcock head dressmaker of a world famous design house clothier of the upper crust of England, Europe, America and the world at large. He even has groupies that approach in restaurants pleading to one day purchase one if his dresses then a desire to be buried in that dress. Reynolds does not pass up the chance to take a shot at his dismissive sister Cyril (Leslie Manville) remarking that she would be quick to dig up the dress to sell it again. Woodcock meets Alma (Krieps) on a winter weekend trip out of town while his sister Cyril dispatches the last muse that Reynolds had grown tired of.
Anderson noted that the idea for the film came to him after he was sick in bed and his wife cared for him in such a loving manner. He found Krieps by stumbling across a little known German film The Chambermaid and Day-Lewis, of course, he directed in his Oscar winning role of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. Anderson scrip it detailed and particular lingering on every aspect of the dressmaking process including a lengthy scene in the first act of Reynolds taking Alma's measurements for the first time with Cyril writing over a dozen numbers down in a notebook. The film is also obsessed with tight spaces from Woodcock's two-seater sports car that he often drives too fast to attic type sets where Reynolds applies his craft bringing his drawings to life on Alma's frame while she boasts that no one can stand for longer.
There are some comedic moments in the piece especially when the dressmaker whines about distractions or seemingly minor occurrences or alterations to his routine. His quirks are challenged by both women with Cyril plainly announcing the peril he will face if choosing to pick a fight with her. The best of these moments occur at the breakfast table with Reynolds drawing in his sketchbook while in his mind Alma loudly butters her toast or pours hot water from a high altitude.
Phantom Thread is a study in how a person who needs no one comes to realize by the not too subtle act of another that he does at some points, he must slow down to do other things. The film is superbly acted backed by an absorbing script and visual eye of the director. The luscious score composed by Jonny Greenwood featuring the London Philharmonic sets the tone and mood of a time that is modern enough and recognizable to today's audience but does not have the early stages of any electronic devices that would look dated. It's a fitting last statement from Lewis if the rumors are true featuring a deathblow to the word "chic" that I highly recommend.
**** Out of 4
Phantom Thread | Paul Thomas Anderson | USA | 2018 | 130 Minutes.
Tags: Fashion House, Dress Maker, Brother-Sister, Muse, Taking Measurements, Dreams, Ghost, Wedding Dress, Belgium, Countess, Princess, New Year's Eve, Mushrooms, Chic.