Daniel Day Lewis (DDL) chose this movie to be the one he would end his acting career on. This farewell entourage to one of the all time greatest actors left me salivating to see something else from him again; so sensible and nuanced. Unfortunately cinematic art like Phantom in America doesn’t come about all too often. It almost feels like a once in a generation celestial event. Heck, the last time I saw anything closely resembling this style of movie and quality was the 1993 film Remains of the Day which I wrote about early in the Friday’s Finest project and that wasn’t even an American production.
I alluded to Phantom before in a New Years festive piece – Could watching the Phantom Thread become a *new* New Year’s tradition? I always felt the movie deserved it’s own article here. I have heard director Anderson and DDL discuss their interactions when they were writing this movie. Extraordinarily this movie just came from their heads. Yes, they had read and heard of famous costume designers the DDL character was based on, but they created something entirely unique and mystique in its presentation. Anderson did something similar with There Will Be Blood despite it being loosely based on a 1927 book, but in affect he created a whole other beast – incomparable to the book as they both stated.
I wrote in the New Years article how I always felt that Paul Thomas Anderson‘s There will be Blood was a homage of sorts to Orson Welles and Citizen Kane and Phantom Thread was his attempt at doing a Ingmar Bergman movie. I think he pulled it off since every time I see Phantom I am enraptured with his fussiness at getting every scene so beautifully captured like a painter to screen. It’s watching the most fastidious costume designer go about their business and this movie is analogous to Anderson’s manner of perfectionism with his own craft. I mean the guy took over 5 months to edit the movie.
Set in the glamour of 1950s post-war London, renowned dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are at the center of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, debutants, and dames with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Women come and go through Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and companionship, until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover. Once controlled and planned, he finds his carefully tailored life disrupted by love.
Since no one kills anyone here with a bowling pin; and old women attend to their craft like every last fibre of their being depended on it; and people eat their breakfast with such finesse and minimal noise so as not to impinge on others; then it was foreseen Phantom would not exactly evoke the great young audience of You tubers’ love that There Will Be Blood did and that’s fine.
This movie is for mature audiences and I don’t mean that to be condescending. This is for older people who have been around the block or two and admire the sensation of ‘fascinating’ realism when they see it. It’s probable I would not have admired Phantom as much in my youth than I do now. But, I do think The Phantom Thread like Ingmar Bergman’s legacy in terms of film appreciation and refinement will bask its day in glory. Give it a few decades once people get tired of the hyper sensorial vitriol.