Release: 18th June 2018
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
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.
Toxic masculinity is a common theme within the work of Paul Thomas Anderson. From Dirk Diggler’s destructive sexcapades, to Frank TJ MacKey’s ‘Seduce and Destroy’ method, to Freddie Queil and his flagrant anger issues; here is a director who clothes his men with an incessant need to assert the thing that dangles (or in the case of Dirk, swings) between their legs. Even sweet little Barry Egan compensates for matriarchal grip with bursts of violence.
Anderson’s latest alpha male is not an oil tycoon over compensating with massive drills and obscene wealth (although both look remarkably like Daniel Day-Lewis), instead he is a quiet, fussy dressmaker. Reynolds Woodcock is a slight, effeminate, unassuming ladies’ tailor who surrounds himself with woman; a man who, by rights, should be softened and wholly unimpressed by the ‘rights of men’ yet somehow proves to be one of the biggest bastards Anderson has ever concocted. Reynolds is the worst kind of man in that he understands women, he fashions their world and desires, and in turn worships his deceased mother and puts complete confidence in his sister Cyril’s guidance. Yet he chooses to abuse his privileged position. He has ‘muses’ in rotation, a revolving door alluded to when Cyril coolly encourages her brother to “at least” offer his latest departure the “blue dress”. It is a strange love story then when waitress turned vision, Alma enters his life. Hunger features throughout the film as Reynolds’ belly often betrays his emotions; a literal hunger giving way to a sexual one.
Phantom Thread is, at its heart, a love story. And just like Punch Drunk Love, and maybe even The Master, a highly unconventional one. To delve too deeply will spoil the film’s twisted revelations, but it safe to say that Anderson has not lost his passion for fragile and unusual characters. It is also worth mentioning that nor has he lost his ability to spin a gorgeous image. The evolution of Anderson from indy darling to Altmanesque auteur has been a thrill to watch, with Phantom Thread being one of his most subtly atmospheric films to date.
Is there anything to complain about? Well one might take umbrage with the film’s pace or find reason to see it as a little pretentious. But those people are not the target audience. This is mainstream Anderson but remember that his is also the man who made it rain frogs in Magnolia, spends his spare time producing Radiohead videos, and CHOSE to adapt Inherent Vice. So, no, despite what the marketing wants you to believe, this is not The Remains of the Day or A Room with a View.
There is not a single bum note delivered by the cast or crew, as Day-Lewis, Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps provide a literal feast of outstanding scenes. Make time to enjoy one liners such as, “far too much movement for breakfast time”, “don’t pick a fight with me, you certainly won’t come out alive,” and, of course, “to the hungry boy.” A very nourishing meal indeed.
Film Grade: A
Food fight. That is all I am going to say about the Deleted Scenes. There are some Camera Tests with an enlightening commentary from Anderson. There is also a totally odd Fashion Show Reel and some Set Photos. The thing that is really missing is a director’s commentary and a proper making of.
Special Features Grade: D+
Easily one of the best films in Anderson’s filmography. It has drama, comedy, but most of all it has a magnetism that will keep you coming back again and again. The film might end, but its legacy is staying right here.