In 2007, auteur Paul Thomas Anderson and acting titan Daniel Day-Lewis teamed up to create the cinematic monument that is There Will Be Blood. For those of us that devote our lives to cinema, There Will Be Blood is a pillar of cinema that we all arrive at eventually. 10 years later, the pair have reteamed for another singular, confounding and ultimately ravishing work of cinema in Phantom Thread.
What more can I say about Daniel Day-Lewis that hasn’t been said over his career? He’s got a LeBron James quality to him – he’s always the best player on the court. Reynolds Woodcock is a tremendous character that he embodies so effortlessly in every facet from his exacting, mild-mannered politeness in how he speaks to his posture that is both perfect yet weary. Not a line of dialogue feels thrown away coming from Day-Lewis, they all feel essential to understanding Woodcock. You learn everything you need to know about him from Day-Lewis in the opening scenes. He goes through a meticulously selected routine to get dressed and ready for the day, and at breakfast his most recent lover tries to talk to him about their lack of communication and he simply responds that he can’t deal with a confrontation right now at breakfast as it will throw off his entire day. He does not have time for other people’s emotional needs, he is intensely focused, sacrificing all conventional iterations of meaningful human interaction for his art. I don’t know what it says about me that I related deeply to Reynolds Woodcock, but it’s probably not healthy. If Day-Lewis sticks to his word that this is his last acting role, he’s certainly gone out on an impossibly high note.
Vicky Krieps is equally hypnotic, holding her own and in some scenes besting Day-Lewis in romantic and psychological sparring matches as they seek to possess each other. The chemistry between the two is just magnificent, they’ll have entire conversations before our eyes just with looks, sometimes without even looking at each other. Where has Vicky Krieps been? Why have I never heard of her before now? She’s great!
Paul Thomas Anderson’s status as perhaps the best filmmaker of his generation is not a case of overhype. He truly is one of the great filmmakers, and that’s that. He has never made the same film twice, has never made a film that feels lacking in effort and ambition, and has never made a film for financial gain. He wears another hat here, serving as the cinematographer on Phantom Thread and it turns out he’s as great at that as he is at writing and directing! His photography is instinctive, searching his characters for what they really mean. He brilliantly captures natural lighting and candlelight to give the film an almost gothic quality in its shadowplay. Jonny Greenwood, incapable of creating lacking work, crafts an inquisitive, cordial and elegant score for this romance to fall on.
What I didn’t expect based on the trailers was just how hilarious this movie is. It has a devilish, black hole sense of humor that surprises you. I found myself cackling at the ruthless poise of Woodcock’s insults to others, and thankfully the rest of the audience was laughing throughout too. One of the great things about this film is how hard it is to describe it. Is it an ode to destructive relationships? A study of the relationship between artist and muse? Secretly one of the funniest films of 2017? It’s just a great work of cinema, one that we’ll be discussing for a very long time.