Phantom Thread Review
Paul Thomas Anderson’s exquisite drama (Phantom Thread) is like one of those beautiful dresses made by Daniel Day Lewis’s character Reynolds Woodcock; it is drop-dead gorgeous, precise and more than anything, densely layered.
Daniel Day Lewis plays a dressmaker who is completely consumed by his craft and worships it. He happens to meet an unassuming, immigrant waitress and they fall for each other. Alma, played beautifully by Vicky Krieps, moves in, with Woodcock. He finds Alma as someone with a perfect shape and an apt muse for him to unleash his art upon. Alma starts loving this treatment, initially. She describes how out of shape, she thought, she was and how Woodcock made her realize about her elegance and the faultless figure. But little do they know that this relationship is going to be anything but faultless.
It is fascinating how the screenplay is put together like a dressmaker himself is stitching up one beautiful scene after another. As the story moves forward, all these layers stitched together are gently undone, as we, in the cinema hall, gasp in sheer incredulity at the mastery at display. This can be seen as a story of an artist who lives for his art and with his art. This is never more evident than in the scene where Alma, with an excitement of a newlywed bride, walks up to Woodcock’s room and knocks on the door, only to be sent away by him. “I am working… “He says, as Alma’s face is stricken by disappointment.
This, at times, can also be viewed as a feminist film. A bunch of scenes give us an impression that Alma is being looked down upon by the people around and is being controlled by her lover. When Alma demands that they go to the New Year’s celebration and eventually ends up going alone, as we see her dancing, unabashed and happy, an almost patriarchal Woodcock drags her out of the party.
The film also delves in the complexities of a married couple, becoming almost a family drama, with Woodcock’s sister also being an integral part of it. Considering how the film ends and certain decisions the characters make, it almost felt like a psychotic love story, a side of love that was never explored before. The climax might not go down well with everyone but I found it extremely interesting and heartbreaking at the same time, it leaves you with an idea to ponder upon.
The actual Phantom thread that weaves magic into this drama is the music, it is delicately used for almost every scene in the film, never really intruding the story but merely adding another beautiful layer to it, both its presence and absence are beautiful. Take the scene where Woodcock and Alma are sitting in the dark, having a conversation, the music stops and the silences in their conversations are filled with the sound of the burning flakes of wood, in the fireplace beside them. The film is exceptionally well shot and designed and is a delight to experience it in a cinema hall. The movie is as much about the craft of it as it is about the art.
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It is only fitting that Daniel Day Lewis had to play a man obsessed with his work, just like he is with acting, in his last film. Having said that, with due respect to the legend, it is Vicky, whose face is like an open canvas waiting to be painted with various emotions and boy is the painting beautiful! She is truly brilliant.
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Phantom Thread is more deserving of the audience’s applause, than an Oscar. Brilliant.