- Phantom Thread marks Paul Thomas Anderson’s eighth (8th) film and second (2nd) collaboration with the great Daniel Day-Lewis.
- After his 70mm experimentation with The Master– this is PTA back on 35mm just like 2014’s Inherent Vice.
- The film opens with Alma (Vicky Krieps) telling the story of her relationship with Reynolds Woodcock (DDL) in an interview style.
- The film is concerned with routine. Like Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, The Master – PTA is building this character brick by brick with Reynolds’ rigorous morning procedure. Reynolds’ breakfast is very important to him (and these are some of the best black comedy scenes in the film), he eats at the same corner booth in the restaurant every time, and clearly has the same routine with love interests in his life. Lesley Manville’s Cyril is his sister and real soul mate and match. He calls her “my old so and so”. Cyril literally sniffs out Alma the first time they meet.
- Jonny Greenwood’s gloriously angelic score accompanies it all. Unlike, Inherent Vice, which was largely filled with a curated collection of rock music- this is Greenwood’s show entirely. Greenwood provides roughly ninety minutes of score here. Jonny Greenwood’s lush score is very different than his work in his previous PTA films (starting with their collaboration on There Will Be Blood in 2007). The piano scales here are lovely- less ethereal and un-film-score-y than his previous scores. This is more like one of the best scores from Hollywood in the 1950s.
- If anything, this may be a bit more of a feather in the cap for DDL and Greenwood than it is for PTA.
- Mark Tildesley’s production design deserves praise for the abundance of flowers (the flowers in every scene remind me of the Christmas light bulbs used in nearly every scene in Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut on a smaller scale- it is really Kubrick that is PTA’s closest peer) and period wallpaper work- but Mark Bridges’ costume work takes center stage.
- PTA uses a dissolve going from the restaurant to the car after Reynolds and Alma meet. PTA can make a simple shot, like Reynolds driving in his sports car, look beautiful. It may look a little like the car scenes (speeding through the backroads in the UK) in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange– perhaps a small little homage.
- Phantom Thread makes for another bizarre love story between eccentric characters making an unofficial trilogy that now includes Punch-Drunk Love and Licorice Pizza. Reynolds is a handful. Alma says “I think he’s being too fussy” as Cyril rolls her eyes. Reynolds says, “I like to see who I’m talking to” as he takes off her makeup on their first date (which feels a little like the first processing scene in The Master)- “that’s better.” Reynolds is character with great depth. He is superstitious (throwing salt over his shoulder- a thousand little details like that), spiritual, and has a mother complex. The relationship with Alma has many scenes involving cooking, food, from her “hungry boy” line when they meet to the final “right now we’re here—and I’m getting hungry” line. There is more: the asparagus epic breakdown to the mushrooms and the flirtatious and sexual way DDL eats it and injures himself.
- This “needing to come down” like an infant (“baby” in the text) to be open and tender bipolarity is certainly like Barry’s yin and yang of the car crash and the harmonium in Punch-Drunk Love.
- This is slyly one of the funnier films of 2017. Reynolds is hilarious high strung. He compares her to a horse who has just trampled across the room (her noisiness drives him nuts the entire time). Day-Lewis’ delivery of “I’m admiring my own gallantry for eating this the way you prepared it” is chef’s kiss perfect – as is “the tea is going out; the interruption is staying right here with me” when Alma leaves the room after he dismisses her for interrupting his work. This works as both comedy of the absurd and as part of his character-these are not far off from like Step Brothers’ “This is a house of learned doctors!”
- Daniel Day-Lewis announced his retirement and said this would be his final film. If this is indeed his final role- he ends on a wonderous high note.
- the protégé relationship typical in PTA’s work is absent here. No California location for the first time as well of course.
- The closest cousin is not a Merchant Ivory period film- but Punch-Drunk Love with the “I want to punch your face and smash it” between Sandler and Watson’s characters.
- Another story from PTA (and DDL) of a monomaniacal man. Secrets, opaqueness…layering. A study of PTA himself perhaps or an obsessive artist at work at the very least (Alma was the name of Hitchcock’s wife-?).
- There are reoccurring locations and characters’ behavior- but not the ebb and flow of the visual formal markers in Punch-Drunk Love and The Master. This is not the stylistic bravado high-wire act of Boogie Nights. There is a visual element here going on with the staircase. It could be a stretch but the height of DDL on the staircase is his way of asserting power. He is on top and they are looking up to him. At the beginning of the “asparagus ambush” it’s Krieps who is on top and DDL never looks comfortable looking up. Again, could be reading into it too much but really nothing is an accident with PTA’s work.
- Undoubtedly, Manville’s stern caretaker sort of character reminded me of Judith Danvers in Hitchcock’s Rebecca and Krieps early naiveté and obvious younger age reminded me of Joan Fontaine but clearly PTA is riffing off that because Krieps has a lot more to her.
- A Highly Recommend/ Must-See border film
Drake have you heard about soggy bottom yet. It is his upcoming movie. A coming of age drama starring Philip Seymour hoffman’s young son, and Brad Cooper. I heard they just finished filming and am excited to see it.
@D.WGriffith- that is exciting! I heard about it vaguely– knew that he was working on a new project and some other details- hadn’t heard “soggy bottom” yet. Can’t wait for any new PTA film- we’ll be at least in 2021 so that’s four years from Phantom Thread.
Do you think Vicky Krieps should have been nominated at the Oscars for Phantom Thread?
@Anderson- I do, but that was a very good crop of nominees as well
Noticed the visual link in shape between the poisonous mushrooms and the dresses. Brilliant visual motif.
A Moon Shaped Pool was especially heavy on strings and orchestras so I assume those qualities of Greenwood’s score here could be described as something of a carryover from that.
I will always love PTA no matter what he does, and I know all of you guys will too, but I have to say it, what the hell was he thinking naming his latest film Licorice Pizza??? His previous titles, like here with Phantom Thread and Inherent Vice and There Will Be Blood all have this air of mystery or fear to them, and even the austerity of the choice of words to form the title of The Master, a simple article and noun have a striking effect to them. But I just don’t understand what was going through his mind when he picked the title of this new film at all. It’s like he took a Richard Linklater title generator except without the penetrative power Linklater’s titles have. At least it’s a moderate improvement over Soggy Bottom.
I believe it is the name of a chain of record stores from that era of Los Angeles, and the namesake comes from the look of a vinyl record – round like pizza, and black like licorice. I’m not sure PTA’s philosophical aspirations are as great in this film (not a criticism of it, though I’m happy to be proven wrong) and so the title evokes more of a tangible connection to the period than some abstract concept.
I agree with you, for the most part.
Apparently, “Anderson explained, ‘If there’s two words that make me kind of have a Pavlovian response and memory of being a child and running around, it’s ‘licorice’ and ‘pizza’ […] It instantly takes me back to that time.’ He added that the words ‘seemed like a catch-all for the feeling of the film […] that go well together and maybe capture a mood.'” It was also the name of a group of record stores where PTA went many times, but I don’t think that adds to the nostalgia much since it is likely that few people outside of California know of the stores.
One final counterargument could be that the unlikely combination of licorice and pizza is just as mismatched as the combination of Alana Kane and Gary Valentine.