Deceptively hidden under layers of gorgeous surfaces, Paul Thomas Anderson’s borderline-sick romance waltzes towards a riveting tale of obsession.
Phantom Thread, the writer-director’s ultra-fascinating bad romance (powered by an uncommonly sophisticated script by Anderson himself), gives us a real hero – or at least one who’s earned his perch.Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis, greying, fastidious, never unpersuasive) rules his private corner of London’s 1950s haute fashion world. A dresser of wasp-waisted princesses, he pursues his craft in total concentration and near-complete silence. “There’s entirely too much movement at breakfast!” Woodcock shouts with terrifying severity, an Anderson hallmark.
When his character woos a lowly waitress, Alma (Vicky Krieps, purposefully blank), onto his tailoring pedestal to be his new object of desire, you cringe on her behalf.
What an absolute joy it is, then, to watch Alma slowly turn the tables on this insufferable creep. Phantom Thread hides this development until it can no longer; its build-up is consumed with the thrill of driving fast in a sports car, the elegance of the clothes and the ritualisation of Woodcock turning bodies into consumable things. It’s almost a little too square and prestigey for the maker of Inherent Vice, but then Jonny Greenwood’s delicate piano score goes cello-heavy and the mood darkens into neediness – and worse.
Anderson’s swing of the power pendulum represents his most fun piece of direction to date. It’s sultry, silly and undeniably wonderful.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A pure slice of cinematic perfection.