Cinematic Releases: A Tenuous Connection: Phantom Thread (2017) - Reviewed

There have been many films that tackle the subject of the relationship of an artist and their muse. They tend to become a chaotic affair, with the artist having to choose between their passion for their art and the passion they feel for their lover. In Paul Thomas Anderson's newest film Phantom Thread (2017), he explores the relationship between Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), a famous dressmaker and a strong-willed woman named Alma (Vicky Krieps) who upends his formally regimented bachelor lifestyle.

Phantom Thread is an homage to old-school style cinema in both its presentation and in its languid pacing. The film takes place in the affluent, fashion-obsessed high society segment of 1950s London, with The House of Woodcock being the most esteemed fashion empire in the city. Reynolds provides gorgeous, one-of-a-kind dresses for socialites, film stars, and even members of the Royal Family. His life mirrors his profession--it's perfectly tailored to him, with no room for interruptions or outside influence. That is until Alma enters the picture and tries with all her might to merge their lives together.

This film reminded me a lot of Barry Lyndon (1975) with its naturally lit cinematography and subdued color palette. Interestingly enough, Anderson was not able to work with Robert Elswit, his usual cinematographer, so he did much of it himself and released the film without giving credit to a specific director of photography. The pacing of the film matches the softness of its aesthetic with the arc of the relationship between Reynolds and Alma developing at a believable rate. There is a lot of push and pull between them and much of implications of their emotions for each other are not fully revealed until the third act.

Krieps' take on Alma is delightful and she injects a lot of wit and bite into what could have been an underdeveloped character. In a lesser film, she would have been relegated to being a manic-pixie-dream-girl, only existing for the male protagonist to find himself, but in Phantom Thread she has a much deeper (and slightly subversive) impact. This film subtly explores the subtext of how co-dependent relationships blossom and it takes a somewhat ambiguous stance on whether it's inherently a bad thing or not. Day-Lewis is fabulous as usual, and is much more low-key than in his previous outings in Anderson's filmography. Another standout is Lesley Manville as Cyril, Reynolds' acerbic sister. She holds her own and is believable as the one of the few individuals who can withstand Reynolds' intensity.

The musical score, provided by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, is lush and symphonic, sweeping though the film like the train of a ball gown. It's another aspect that feels like an older style of film with its strong melody and cues that match the events happing on the screen. It's gorgeous and one of the best I have heard this year.

Phantom Thread is most likely going to be Day-Lewis' last film and luckily, he is going out on a fantastic note.

--Michelle Kisner