In Phantom Thread, by Paul Thomas Anderson a silence accompanies the illustrious British designer of women's clothing Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) while wielding a tape measure with delicate precision, runs with his long fingers the He looks at his work, the silence broken only by the scratch of the pencil or the creak of a floorboard. The assistants and clients know that they should not interrupt. The time is from the early 50's, and Reynolds Woodcock is an artist who breathes the upper air.
Phantom Thread could have been a howl. Only the name "Reynolds Woodcock" is, as the French would say, de trop – the pinnacle of twit. Jonny Greenwood's delirious string and piano score continues in a romantic and transcendentalist realm of its own. Everything would be very pretentious, except that it is not pretension if you live and breathe, since I believe that Anderson lives and breathes the idea that an artist like Woodcock must orchestrate every aspect of existence to create a sacred space for creation. The problem comes when you also believe in true love. How can a man like Woodcock yield even a small amount of control?
You can not, at the beginning. The Woodcock we know sits at the breakfast table with his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), along with a lover who pleads for his attention and is briefly frozen. She is already history. Cyril, meanwhile, is in tune with his movements. She follows his example, completes her thoughts, guides him only in the most subtle way for fear of getting rid of her precious rhythm. Woodcock only allows two people in his space: Cyril, who deals with the daily affairs of life, and his mother, who is dead but always present.
The delicate balance of Woodcock could perhaps be maintained if he were an ascetic, but Anderson has also given him a reverence for the feminine form and a gift for seduction. At a restaurant near his country house, he finds a charmingly clumsy waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps from Luxembourg), who has the kind of body he likes (tall, small breasts, a pinch of belly) and a way Tempting to hold your eyes. ("If you want to have a looks contest with me, you will lose," he says). On his first date he takes his measurements. Soon after, she practically moved out. Like her other lovers, Alma is not happy as a wallflower: she wants to feel recognized and needed. Unlike her other lovers, she has a psycho touch.
Phantom Thread adopts a sinister and Hitchcock tone before resolving into a folie à deux that is too much fou for the words – absurd, in fact, although this is the director that ever He opened the hearts of his characters by throwing them with frogs. This resolution makes psychological sense, but it needs a few more beats to work in our bloodstream. Much has been said about Anderson's attraction to the stories of parents, generally terrible. But in Phantom Thread – as in Punch-Drunk Love – we can discern the longing of a little boy for being a lover of mom. Does Woodcock's attachment to order indicate a desire to surrender, even on the verge of death? I doubt that Anderson imagines a better design for life.
Manville is, like his character, so synchronized with Day-Lewis that it borders on his modesty, until it is seen how deeply Cyril monitors every breath of his brother. Krieps is bewitchingly radiant, his face is sufficiently like a mask to make our sudden awareness of all his dark thoughts a shock. But the draw, of course, is Day-Lewis, which is no stranger to the idea of creating a sacred space in which to work. We are not seeing Woodcock, the rarefied designer, but Day-Lewis, the rarefied actor, his immersion so strange that it can illuminate a soul at once titanic and atrophied. Day-Lewis has announced that this will be his last role, that he is retiring from acting, and it is easy to imagine that he will get lost in carpentry or in some other art that requires less emotional risk. How good it will be for him. How tragic for the rest of the world.