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Phantom Thread (2017)

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And when I'm all alone I feel I don't wanna hide


• In my opinion, this is Paul Thomas Anderson's (PTA) best film behind There Will Be Blood and Punch-Drunk Love, although this may change with future viewings.

• It is easily PTA's most accessible film since There Will Be Blood (perhaps even moreso due to its shorter length). In comparison to The Master and Inherent Vice, which were rather dense, narratively, it is a very (ostensibly) simple and gentle film, and refreshingly delightful.

• This film easily passes as a dark satirical comedy. Or maybe even just a comedy. The audience at the cinema were laughing continuously throughout the film. The humour is very understated, and it seems to, at times, emulate Kubrick and Barry Lyndon. I personally loved PTA's approach to comedy.

• In the first half of the film, I was not too fond of Daniel Day Lewis' performance. I mean, it was great, but not incredible. But, surprise, surprise - I was fooled. It dawned on me halfway through that this is a very intimate, deceptively simple and incredibly nuanced performance. Daniel Day Lewis is not playing the President of the United States, a cupid oilman or a pathological murderer here, but an everyday man who has very real and very human flaws.

• The film is like a sister-piece to Punch-Drunk Love. At its heart, it is a romantic film, and an intimate character study about an insecure, emotionally detached man in desperate need for love and companionship.

• I'd say this film is actually PTA's most poignant. There is one scene in the film that nearly had me in tears. In fact, multiple scenes were moving, thanks in large part to the subtlety and honesty of Daniel Day Lewis' performance.

• As you would expect, the photography is beautiful. Even though the cinematography was very much a collaborative effort, it had a homogenous and coherent sensibility. The framing was impeccable, and very reminiscent of Kubrick, Ophüls and Hitchcock at times.

• I can see why this may be Daniel Day Lewis' last performance. While it doesn't have the same level of scope or raw energy as some of his other performances due to the nature of the characters, he arguably went to a very sad and dark place to bring Woodcock alive.

• The score, by Jonny Greenwood, was lovely and very distinguished. I hope he gets an Oscar for his work on this film.

• The film really encapsulates what I love about PTA's filmography: it feels very human, very relatable and very sincere. The characters are empathetic, even if they may come from a different time and place.

• I would love to see another satirical piece from PTA in the future. As mentioned, this film reminded me of Barry Lyndon in its observations of upper-class culture and behaviour. It was funny yet restrained.

TLDR - A very solid film that I suspect will benefit more on rewatches. 8/10 if I had to issue out a numerical rating.



I saw it yesterday and I agree with most of what you said. I was reading about it online and another article made some parallels to Rebecca, which is crazy because I had thought about that when watching it too.



I enjoyed it immensely. Probably would go see it again this week if not for Hostiles and 3B's.

Where Russell Reynolds was at mentally at the end is something I'm still undecided on.



I listened to the PTA interview on Fresh Air this morning and it kinda took the wind out of my sails on the ending.

WARNING: spoilers below
How I interpreted his words "Reynolds wanted to give up control and desired the feeling of being dominated by Alma after being master of everything for so long.

I was cooking up a thought that he was very attached to his mother and her death affected him greatly. The night that her ghost appears to him while Alma is tending to him was the mother's way of showing she approved of Alma. This allowed him to so easily eat his eggs, because to him it was more about his mother than anything else. The fact that Alma doesn't see the mother and (as far as we know) Reynolds never speaks to Alma about her, would keep her in the dark as to his true intentions.






Phantom Thread (2017)

It stands to reason that serious movies deserve seriously considered commentary. Films which have drawn together first rate writers, director, cast and craft people are at a higher level in terms of expectations, and set a higher standard for reflection.

Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread has been placed in that elite group of films which come out every so often that have garnered the type of attention and anticipation reserved for serious cinematic artists. In fact the film was already considered to be of the highest caliber before most people even saw it. And in most aspects the picture did not disappoint.

The film is beautiful to watch. The camera work, art and set design by Denis Schnegg and Veronique Melery, and costume design by Mark Bridges, along with attention to detail, expertly place the viewer into mid-1950s London where the story takes place. The music score by Johnny Greenwood uses an entire palette of musical styles from several periods (Romantic, Impressionism, Modern, avant-garde) to enhance the story. Reportedly Anderson had no cinematographer, but relied heavily for the photography on the camera people.

We are immediately drawn into the high end personal dressmaking trade of the 1950s, and to one of it's most painstaking and eccentric high priests of the trade, Reynolds Woodcock, whose designs grace the figures of wealthy, famous, and royal ladies of London. He lives and breathes dressmaking, which allows him no personal life apart from interaction with his sister, who serves as his manager, confidant, and sounding board. His dress making process is like battlefield preparation, assembling his soldiers for their tasks, and having the maneuvers carried out with military precision. But soon Woodcock happens upon a waitress by whom he is enchanted, and the rest of the story mostly concerns their relationship.

The film was anticipated to be masterful, the presumption magnified by Daniel Day-Lewis' announcement that he was retiring from film making due to the rigors of performance in this project. His acting was predictably exceptional and many-faceted. Lesley Manville, as Woodcock's sister, turned in an icy cold and first class performance, putting many in mind of Judith Anderson's Mrs. Danvers in Hitchcock's Rebecca. Vicky Krieps was good as Woodcock's mistress, although she seemed slightly miscast, lacking of a full range. The rest of the cast was as natural and believable as if it were a documentary. And in fact many of those playing Woodcock's staff were not actors, but professional seamstresses.

There was no plot to the film, but instead more of a linear story. The relationship between Woodcock and his mistress, who he eventually marries, goes through many changes, as does the juxtaposition of his sister and wife. But midway through the final act Woodcock suddenly has a major personality change. Within five minutes the movie shifts from an intriguing drama to an art house film. The result is mystifying and not quite believable.

WARNING: "Phantom Thread" spoilers below
To suddenly believe that Woodcock would knowingly and purposefully consume poisonous mushrooms to make himself ill in order to enter into a pact with his wife, who will then both control and take care of him, is perplexing and uncharacteristic. Putting his life in jeopardy to continuously be his wife's ward strains credulity. The scene offered the opportunity for a fine bit of acting from Day-Lewis; and in fact reportedly the idea for this came from a time when Anderson himself was sick, and his wife showed him extreme tenderness. But yet the notion that the protagonist as a self-centered monomaniacal artist who insists on obedience and complete control of all his endeavors would suddenly cede his life and well being to another is irretrievably far-fetched. Presumably Anderson must have been consumed by the story point, but since it was not lead up to with sufficient preparation, it didn't make sense.


The title Phantom Thread was itself a phantom, since the word "phantom" has no bearing on the story, except to perhaps give the project more mystique. One could imagine that simply "Thread", or "Woodcock's Thread" might have better fit the bill.

Will we see another project for Daniel Day-Lewis, despite his announced retirement from films? It has been 5 years since his last outing, so perhaps in time he'll change is mind. We hope so.

Doc's rating: 7/10



This might just do nobody any good.
I tried but it vanished...

Like a... phantom.

/thread



Welcome to the human race...
There was no plot to the film, but instead more of a linear story. The relationship between Woodcock and his mistress, who he eventually marries, goes through many changes, as does the juxtaposition of his sister and wife. But midway through the final act Woodcock suddenly has a major personality change. Within five minutes the movie shifts from an intriguing drama to an art house film. The result is mystifying and not quite believable.

WARNING: "Phantom Thread" spoilers below
To suddenly believe that Woodcock would knowingly and purposefully consume poisonous mushrooms to make himself ill in order to enter into a pact with his wife, who will then both control and take care of him, is perplexing and uncharacteristic. Putting his life in jeopardy to continuously be his wife's ward strains credulity. The scene offered the opportunity for a fine bit of acting from Day-Lewis; and in fact reportedly the idea for this came from a time when Anderson himself was sick, and his wife showed him extreme tenderness. But yet the notion that the protagonist as a self-centered monomaniacal artist who insists on obedience and complete control of all his endeavors would suddenly cede his life and well being to another is irretrievably far-fetched. Presumably Anderson must have been consumed by the story point, but since it was not lead up to with sufficient preparation, it didn't make sense.
WARNING: "Phantom Thread" spoilers below
I don't think it's that sudden a change - the turning point is the first time that Alma poisons Reynolds. Before that, he's still mainly the one in charge and rejects any attempts she makes to change things up e.g. the asparagus. It's only afterwards that he slowly becomes more accepting of her demands - the standout example of this being the New Year's Eve sequence where he initially refuses to go out with her when she asks but then he eventually comes after her anyway. By this point, she's subtly established herself as the dominant one in the relationship and it's only in the scene where she reveals her poisoning plan that it's ultimately cemented. Since she tells him this before he eats the new mushroom dish, this time he has the choice of whether or not he will continue the relationship (especially since he now knows there's no danger of him actually dying from the poison). It's also presented as him being able to overcome his monomania, which is as much a curse as it is a gift, and he seems happy to have found an acceptable way for him to lose control to someone who has in their own way managed to match him in terms of control.

Also, I'm pretty sure the fact that he has a vision of his dead mother (or is it the actual ghost? there's your phantom) during his initial sickness must also be a positive factor - at one point, he mentions how he takes comfort in the idea of the dead watching over the living, so I wouldn't be surprised if having that experience within the fever was part of his decision as well.
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I really just want you all angry and confused the whole time.
Iro's Top 100 Movies v3.0



You can't win an argument just by being right!
I tried but it vanished...

Like a... phantom.

/thread
LMAO. The ghost who walks.

I dont want to hear it because it hurts my ears.



You can't win an argument just by being right!
I listened to the PTA interview on Fresh Air this morning and it kinda took the wind out of my sails on the ending.

WARNING: spoilers below
How I interpreted his words "Reynolds wanted to give up control and desired the feeling of being dominated by Alma after being master of everything for so long.

I was cooking up a thought that he was very attached to his mother and her death affected him greatly. The night that her ghost appears to him while Alma is tending to him was the mother's way of showing she approved of Alma. This allowed him to so easily eat his eggs, because to him it was more about his mother than anything else. The fact that Alma doesn't see the mother and (as far as we know) Reynolds never speaks to Alma about her, would keep her in the dark as to his true intentions.


Do you still have that interview,DD?



You can't win an argument just by being right!
Thanks, buddy. I've never heard of that show before. Is it popular in USA?

Will have a listen this afternoon and report back. Gee this movie was just so visually spectacular. Lovely score as well, but with a movie this long it gets a bit repetitive; earworm territory.



That elusive hide-and-seek cow is at it again
Thanks, buddy. I've never heard of that show before. Is it popular in USA?

Will have a listen this afternoon and report back. Gee this movie was just so visually spectacular. Lovely score as well, but with a movie this long it gets a bit repetitive; earworm territory.
It is! Well, if you're a fan of our National Public Radio

You should scroll through the podcast history. You might find a few things to listen to to pass the time. Or look through the main menu NPR Podcast/Categories for other shows.

That's about all I listen to on the drives to and from work.



You can't win an argument just by being right!

TLDR - A very solid film that I suspect will benefit more on rewatches. 8/10 if I had to issue out a numerical rating.
Not TLDR for me. Thanks for your critique - I enjoyed reading it and totally agree about the rewatching. I feel the need to rewatch The Master now.



Terry Gross is great and she has interviewed everybody. Jay-Z to you name em'.



I listened to the PTA interview on Fresh Air this morning and it kinda took the wind out of my sails on the ending.

WARNING: spoilers below
How I interpreted his words "Reynolds wanted to give up control and desired the feeling of being dominated by Alma after being master of everything for so long.

I was cooking up a thought that he was very attached to his mother and her death affected him greatly. The night that her ghost appears to him while Alma is tending to him was the mother's way of showing she approved of Alma. This allowed him to so easily eat his eggs, because to him it was more about his mother than anything else. The fact that Alma doesn't see the mother and (as far as we know) Reynolds never speaks to Alma about her, would keep her in the dark as to his true intentions.

I agree with you, DD. If your interpretation of PTA's account of the ending is accurate, then, although I can see what they were doing, it's disappointing that they did it.. The total shift in Woodcock's state of mind was unbelievable, and also likely kept the film from getting higher ratings. The established serious tone of the movie did not lend itself to an artsy ending. The nice chord progression suddenly went into another key.

~Doc



Welcome to the human race...
I'm curious as to how you distinguish serious from artsy, though. In any case, the film had a weird story about weird people so it made sense that it had a weird ending.



Men wanting to be mothered is not a fresh idea. As usual it's how PTA uses that and lays it out that is unique. I think that's why my simple mind responds to PTA so affectionately. At the core ever single one of his films is about very basic human desires and needs. He just fills them with characters that are so complex that they keep the mind running.
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Enjoyed your review of this movie...I was beginning to think I was the only person on the planet who liked this movie, not a lot of talk about it on these boards