‘Phantom Thread’ Review: An Ode to Cinematic Couture

I always fall a little short in my annual quest to see all the nominees for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. I fell short again this year as the show rolled around on March 4 and I still had not seen Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest work, Phantom Thread. It never came very close to where I live, but after popping it into the Blu-Ray player late last night, I’m kicking myself for not seeing this in a movie theatre.

Phantom Thread stars three-time Academy Award Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock, an extravagant dressmaker in 1950s London. Reynolds and his sister, Cyril, run the House of Woodcock, a fashion company that creates dresses for the highest members of society from debutantes to royals. He is obsessive, controlling, and charismatic all in one breath, but is upended with the arrival of Alma (portrayed by Luxembourgian actress Vicky Krieps), a waitress turned muse for his latest outfits. She is certainly not what she seems as this beautifully shot, well dressed romance delves into a much darker tale.

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Within minutes of starting the film, I was captivating by Jonny Greenwood’s score, which almost becomes a character itself against the meticulously crafted production design. The score has the power to transition from lighthearted detached melodies to a haunting aria at the drop of a hat. It sets the mood for each scene, but a gorgeous melody (placed below) remains relevant and consistent across the whole movie.

Just like Anderson’s previous work, There Will Be Blood, this film is visually stunning beyond belief. In the way that There Will Be Blood used dark colors to set the scene, Phantom Thread uses a beautiful but dulled and precise color palette that uses vary shades of white that creates an amazing aesthetic for the time period in which it’s set.

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The magnitude of the performances here will put you on your back. Day-Lewis has electric chemistry with both Lesley Manville who plays his sharp tongued sister Cyril, but also Vicky Krieps’ Alma, his love interest. Manville creates a conniving and charming woman with great delivery every time she has a significant line of dialogue. There are so many words said between these three characters with just simple pointed glances and nothing more.

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Over the course of the film and as the relationship between Reynolds and Alma develops, they begin to absorb and tear apart pieces of one another and pour those shards into their own character. While Day-Lewis plays his character close to the chest, Krieps is charming from the moment that she steps on screen. She eventually delves into this much darker, visceral character with more qualities of the man she loves than she realizes.
Phantom Thread sits on the edge of being an ‘above all pretentious period piece’ that is has been criticized as, but it straddles that line so well and develops to be much more than a simple period piece about the fashion of 20th century London. It becomes a dark, twisted drama that remains seamless throughout. It has great cinematography, incredible performances, and an even more touching score. It’s a must see from 2017.