Tag Archives: Fashion

Phantom Thread

12 Jan

 

Food and appetite play key roles in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread,” which allegedly is the last appearance we’ll see from thespian great Daniel Day-Lewis. “Thread” is a strange period piece and not, on paper, the type of film you’d think Day-Lewis would go out on. But keep in mind this is a flick by PTA, one of the most meticulous filmmakers of his time, if not all time – “Magnolia,” “Boogie Nights” and “The Master” are among his many gems – and it’s a gasp to behold in composition alone.

The time is 1950s London, where haut fashion is defined by designers who create dresses and gowns for wealthy clients. Think of it as going to Versace or Wang’s house to get a gown tailor-made by the name-brander themselves. One such couturier, Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) is so fastidious and OCD that when we meet him, he’s daintily snipping every protruding nose hair before tucking his button-down into his pants with painfully diligent care, so as to not cause an unseemly fold or crease. Appearance and posture is everything. Then it’s on to breakfast in a sunny anteroom of Woodcock’s stately London townhouse, where the dressmaker sips tea gingerly and nibbles on pastries as he goes about his sketches. With him are his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) and latest conquest (Camilla Rutherford) – a much younger woman treated as a hanger-on who’s on the way out. When the wholesome ingenue clangs her silverware once too much for Reynolds’ concentration and he chides her for the unconscionable and incessant interruptions, she, knowing full well of her fate and tired of being ignored, raises her voice. Reynolds barely looks across the table and, with cold, restrained calm, says, “I cannot begin my day with a confrontation.” This is a cue to his loyal sis to clean up his romantic mess and allow him to get on with business.

The next young muse Reynolds has for breakfast is a chestnut-haired lass by the name of Alma (Vicky Krieps). They don’t eat together, but she takes his breakfast order at an inn in the British countryside. It’s also the first time we see Reynolds’ face light up (he orders Welsh rarebit, sausage, eggs, biscuit, toast, jam and butter, and so on – enough to feed a small village, and an obvious metaphor for his consuming desire). The two become lovers, but the relationship does not proceed as the others. Alma is cagey beyond what her porcelain innocence would imply, and the fact that she doesn’t knuckle under to Reynolds’ usual controlling tactics rattles him. It’s also here that we learn Reynolds’ client base has begun to erode. All is not well in the house of Woodcock, and Cyril, ever alert to the unhappy undercurrents, tries to keep the seams from bursting. Quietly sinister parlor games ensue, and Alma attempts to seize the upper hand by frying up a few unfriendly omelettes. The tone feels dialed in from another movie, but Anderson, ever the master of continuity and flow, holds it all together. Continue reading