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Tuesday, March 6, 2018


(Daniel Day-Lewis)

Daniel Day-Lewis signs off his career with a flourish in Paul Thomas Anderson’s exquisitely perverse romance. (Review by Patrick Compton - 9/10)

This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I would have given my vote to Phantom Thread as the Best Picture (eventually won by The Shape of Water) at Sunday night’s 90th Academy Awards ceremony.

If this is truly Daniel Day-Lewis’s final picture, as he has promised, then he has quit close to the summit of his craft in his role as Reynolds Woodcock, a high-fashion designer in London in the mid-1950s. But Day-Lewis is by no means a solitary figure in Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest feature in a glittering career that includes movies such as Boogie Nights, Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, The Master and Inherent Vice. In addition to the director and his star, there are also superb performances by an unknown Luxembourg actress, Vicky Krieps who plays Woodcock’s lover, Alma, as well as Lesley Manville who plays his sister, Cyril, with whom he lives.

Woodcock is a long way from being a sympathetic figure. He is, in many ways, a perfect example of the artist-as-monster. The film’s opening breakfast table scene establishes this. A wailing, soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend, arouses his ire. “I can’t begin my day with a confrontation,” he murmurs with icy disdain as his sister maintains a cool silence.

Breakfast, in fact, plays a major role in the movie. Soon after seeing off his ex, Woodcock is entranced by a waitress at a seaside restaurant who is soon to become the latest in his line of models/girlfriends/inspirations. Aside from her Flemish beauty, perhaps she attracts him by the way she calmly and dutifully responds to Woodcock’s breakfast order which includes “Welsh rarebit with a poached egg; bacon, scones, butter, cream, jam; a pot of Lapsang souchong, (pause) and some sausages”.

Woodcock’s voracious appetites are not confined to food. Power, tranquility and a petty dictatorial insistence on always getting his own way in all matters artistic and personal are also high on his menu. In addition, he has a mother fixation, a relationship that always takes the biggest slice of cake in his life.

The developing tension in this film rests on whether Alma has the ability to stand up to this pressure ... there is a brilliant scene midway through the film when the scraping and chomping of toast sounds like a provocation to murder, and it seems she is going to be remaindered like the rest of his women.

Woodcock, an obsessive dandy, responds to all disturbances in his life like a spoilt child, but Alma, who gives every bit of herself to her master, including her dignity, is not one to give up and she discovers a new ally of the vegetable variety in her complex emotional battle.

Phantom Thread is about love, power, food, control, clothes and lots of sewing. It also features wonderful music from Jonny Greenwood, beautiful costume design by Mark Bridges, a frosty performance from Manville that will remind you of Mrs Danvers in Alfred Hitchcock’s sinister Rebecca and the appearance of a new star of the cinema in Krieps.

As for Day-Lewis, he dons the character of Woodcock like a perfectly fitting dinner jacket. As with all of his memorable characters in a many-splendoured career, we believe in him utterly.

Phantom Thread opened on March 2 at Gateway. – Patrick Compton