PHANTOM THREAD [2018]


Paul Thomas Anderson has done it again: creating an incredible film from subject matter that at first seems like an odd and uninteresting choice. A film about oil was the core for a thrilling film. Here, he takes the eras of 1950’s dressmaking and in a much more subtle way, wrings everything possible from this world to gradually create a psychologically toxic environment and relationship that, while gender roles were different 70 years ago, is still disturbingly prevalent today.

Much like Warwick Thornton in Sweet Country, PTA takes on the role of cinematographer – more directors should operate this way. There are some stunning takes that defy convention, a few scenes perhaps inspired by Renoir, given the movement of multiple characters in the one take. The use of extreme close-ups are also powerful, almost bringing to mind Bergman. In fact this is a film that he could easily have written. A director behind the camera somehow changes the look of the film.

The plot is simple, but the relationship between Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Alma (Vicky Krieps) couldn’t be further from simple. The script is wonderfully written as Woodcock is a fussy man; on one occasion the loud sound of Alma buttering her toast causes an outburst that is actually quite funny in a dark way; he claims that her making of breakfast is breaking his concentration.

In fact, this works as a comedy occasionally when these moments arise; it feels wrong but the things Woodcock says, his immature behaviour, it all makes for awkward laughs while poor Alma is accepting all of it and despite the abuse, she doesn’t leave. This type of relationship is still very apparent today, and Anderson taps into this perfectly. Men often have the ability to own a women, in their mind, criticising and destroying their self esteem.

Sliding into the equation is Cyril (Lesley Manville), Woodcock’s sister, his ‘so and so’, who he treats like a mother, and most certainly better than Alma. Cyril constantly wears a hard, judging expression, rarely smiling, consistently measuring Alma’s worth. The brother/sister relationship is also very psychologically odd, as Cyril essentially acts like a mother tending to a child. And ultimately, that is what is happening. Woodcock is an infantile man who vents his anger towards Alma in the pettiest of ways.

If this is Lewis’ final performance, he has certainly delivered the goods, as one would expect. Woodcock is an extremely complex character with flaws flowing down the waterfall. A welcome change in Anderson’s style is that while the mighty DDL is on screen, he happily hands the reigns to Vicky Kreips, whose’ Alma is a simple character to begin with, but as the relationship begins to take negative turns, unexpected characteristics come to the fore. She effortlessly forms a strange chemistry with Lewis that is very convincing.


The ebb and flow of the relationship between the two, with Cyril interfering, makes for a very interesting psychological study of brother/sister relationships as well as how Alma defies the gender role assigned to women in the 1950’s, creating an initially happy, but eventually morbid, unhealthy attitude. The complexity of their relationship is remarkably written and incredibly unique, as is the character of Woodcock. His wisecracks really are that of a child, yet even with Cyril watching her every move, judging, Alma is willing to stay, to be with him. She is willing to take the abuse. The question we are left with is, why?

A full sixer. It was worth the wait, as PTA delivers again

6/6

22 Comments on “PHANTOM THREAD [2018]

  1. Glad you loved it. I hope it wins something on Sunday at the Oscars. The deadpan comedy aspect I failed to mention in my own review, you are spot on with that observation. As you say, despite set in the past, this type of relationship is still very apparent today.

    Your final question is interesting, maybe she got a kick out of the adversity, maybe she wanted his inheritance. I think Alma’s reason for sticking around was the challenge of the relationship as it was kind of a game. Other women would have got the hell out of dodge though 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed, agree with you on all counts. Yeah I really loved that awkward comedy, he was almost like Jack Torrence in that typewriter scene! But more subtle, digging away at her.

      As for Alma sticking around, it is really interesting to ponder on. I didn’t like the ending at first but the second time I thought it was dead on point. Your opinion is interesting, I think you are right. It sure is a psychological mindfuck, but in a subtle way. Such a crazy relationship. I think also she truly loved him and couldn’t go away.

      This is one I could watch over and over, much like Master or TWBB.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m glad you loved this so much! I enjoyed it, but not as much as I wanted it too. PTA is such a talented director though, and he deserves that Oscar nom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • He certainly does deserve it, but I don’t think this sort of film is going to win anything big. Though it should def win the costume and music parts. Or at least get nominated.

      But tbh I’ve never cared for the Oscars. Seems like a popularity contest more that anything else and people always get pissed off at snubs hehe. It is good though to see Billboards making a splash however, I’m super happy about that. We need more films like that.

      Like

  3. Great to see PT get a perfect review; this was my favorite film of 2017. It’s one of the most challenging portrayals of relationships I’ve seen, and at times grows disturbingly realistic, though like Chris I’d be remiss to ignore the underlying humor. One of PTA’s best pictures, which is really saying something.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. “most challenging portrayals of relationships” is a great way to put it. And yeah I thought the occasional humour was great, I certainly laughed many times. I think it was you, maybe someone else, who said that Greenword’s score is amazing, and it really really is. The use of bass was really quite something

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, Greenwood’s score is superb, I hope he wins the Oscar.

        Side note: I’m seeing Municipal Waste soon. It’ll be the first time I’ll see them live, though I have caught Iron Reagan several times before.

        Liked by 1 person

      • NICE!! When I saw them ages ago there was a dude crowd surfing on a pink boogie board, and was headbanging while doing it! They threw inflatable stuff into the crowd, and for Terror Shark they had us do a wall of death. I was at the front, then when we hit I lost consciousness haha. Next thing I know they are three dudes on top of me, and I’m getting helped up by three people, and once I was up I started jumping around and headbanging again and slam-dancing.

        Dude I miss proper pits, they are so much fun. They seem to be dead down here, people get all weirded out if I head-bang and hip into them hard. I mean, its metal!! Go nuts!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sounds great, hope they do that stuff. Though I actually prefer Iron Reagan to Municipal Waste, I’m pumped on seeing them live.

        And dude, you’ve got to watch Raging Bull. Not only one of Scorsese’s strongest films, but one of the best movies ever made.

        Like

      • Also, this reminded me a bit of Raging Bull, in portraying marital strife at its most horrifying. Kind of works as a weird companion piece.

        Like

  4. A fine summation on the film, matey. So much to enjoy and in this one. Like we spoke of, I’ll need a second viewing but I still thoroughly liked it first time round.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ll pick up even more snarky lines from DDL and his sister in the movie on second viewing. I keep saying it but this is a psychological mindfuck of a totally different variety

      Like

  5. Nice review Jordan. I really enjoyed this film and enjoyed the ending. It played against expectations, I kind of came out thinking hey good for them. It almost seemed like a healthy relationship because they were both in on it. Like they came to an agreement.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post 🙂 I personally feel that this is Paul Thomas Anderson’s’ crowning achievement so far as a filmmaker. In other words, the masterpiece that tops all of the others. I first became a huge fan of Paul Thomas Anderson beginning with There Will Be Blood and since then, I have loved everything he has churned out. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmmm… I can’t seperate TWBB from this. This is obviously much much more understated but good god it is a psychological mindfuck, in a very different way to any other film. ‘Unique’ doesn’t do this film any justice!!

      Liked by 1 person

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