Phantom Thread reviews

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Re: Phantom Thread reviews

Postby Precious Doll » Thu Feb 01, 2018 8:24 am

Quite an exquisite film that certainly held my attention and captured me for the entire running time. One of Day-Lewis' best performances and certainly a high note to go on if he remains in retirement. My major quibble with the film is that is should have ended about 10 minutes before it did. As it is it is somewhat ambiguous but I think it takes a couple of steps to far. But aside from that certainly one of the most rewarding viewings experiences from 2017 releases.
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Re: Phantom Thread reviews

Postby Sabin » Tue Jan 16, 2018 1:27 am

This movie is excellent. Comparisons to 'Mother!' are inevitable but it towers in comparison. While it doesn't quite know exactly when to quit, I think it ends wonderfully. It's so much richer than simply the portrait of a woman pulled into a torturous relationship with an artist. As with all recent Paul Thomas Anderson movies ('There Will Be Blood' onward), one spends most of the experience waiting to figure out where the fuck this is going. While 'Phantom Thread' doesn't have the spiking highs of 'The Master,' it's far more cohesive and its message is ultimately hopeful. And it's a gorgeous production.
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Re: Phantom Thread reviews

Postby flipp525 » Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:49 pm

100% co-sign your post, Mister Tee.

I just watched the movie again with a friend and it’s even better the second time. I paid more attention to the framing of scenes this go-around in addition to the use of music to create seamless transitions. Greenwood’s score makes certain creaky narrative mechanics (“Wait, how much time has gone by if she’s now wearing the purple dress Reynolds envisioned the first night?” “Has she moved in?”) irrelevant. You just kind of float along with the unforced passage of time in the world of the House of Woodcock. It’s a beautifully realized fictive dream.

Lesley Manville is giving off some real Mrs. Danvers in the background. Daniel Day-Lewis is exceptional. And, god, if Timothee Chalamet has to lose, can’t he lose to this performance instead?

One of the best films of the year.
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Re: Phantom Thread reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Jan 10, 2018 6:30 pm

I’ve been putting off writing about this film, because I wasn’t sure I could rise to the occasion – convey in words how strongly I responded to it.

Right from the opening frames, I was overwhelmed with the sense I was in the hands of a truly accomplished director. It’s not the first time I’ve had such a reaction to a Paul Thomas Anderson film: I felt the same, vividly, years ago, from the very start of Boogie Nights, and have encountered some version of it again and again over much of the course of Anderson’s career. I think he’s one of just a handful of directors so preternaturally gifted in seemingly every aspect of filmmaking – how to tell stories through pictures; how to frame those pictures; how to use movement within the frame, and from cut-to-cut; how to use actors and dialogue as part of the process – that, every time he makes a film, there’s the possibility of something great emerging. This isn’t to say every (or even any, for some) movie he’s made has reached that level – we can have our various opinions of his work, including this film, and, anyway, even the greatest talent can be hobbled by subject matter or just a bad idea (as the expression goes, “even Homer nods”). But every time I see something of Anderson’s, my overwhelming feeling is, he was born to make films. And Phantom Thread – worlds away, in subject matter and style, from Boogie Nights – is a particularly beautiful example. I think this is easily Paul Thomas Anderson’s most fully-realized film since There Will Be Blood, and about 9/10 a masterpiece.

Saying exactly what it’s about is not a simple matter (which is part of its greatness). On a purely surface level, it’s about an artist (here, a dress designer) and his muse. But it’s a far deeper work than Aronofsky’s mother!, which glossed on the same subject, partly because it gives us a far broader context of that artist’s life and daily existence, and, moreso, because it grants agency to that muse: demonstrating that she, too, has needs that are met by the artist/muse relationship, and that, in fact, at moments – progressively more as the film unfolds – she can take the dominant role in the pairing.

But even that fails to give the full range of this film, because it also demonstrates the process of creation, the day-to-day workings of the assembly line that brings that creation to fruition, the machinations and compromises that enable this endeavor to exist as a business…oh, and it’s all set within a near-Gothic narrative framework (with Lesley Manville hovering, suggesting Mrs. Danvers, but then turning out to have far more complex feelings). The movie also has its very funny moments (whether from Alma’s exaggerated breakfast sounds that so annoy Reynolds, or the bickering that exposes Reynolds as a hopelessly pampered, overgrown child). And the whole thing is just a visual wonder: a film about dress-making is bound to be a costume bonanza, but Anderson doesn’t just show off his dresses: he integrates them into an entire world that would otherwise be foreign to us; we see the functions the dresses fill, which serve to heighten our appreciation of their beauty. On top of that, one must note the lushness of the Greenwood score, which carries us through a multitude of moods, yet always seems part of the same, cohesive work. I do have to say, I’m surprised the music branch didn’t try and get him disqualified, for his lengthy “sampling” of My Foolish Heart; films have been dinged for less. But I’m delighted he’ll have a chance to compete for this exceptional work.

Going in, I was a bit wary of Daniel Day-Lewis’ work, given that I’d heard he was giving something of an unadorned performance. His most famous work has been strictly grounded in character work, always somewhat hidden -- behind Christy Brown’s major handicaps, Bill the Butcher’s elaborate mustachio, Daniel Plainview’s growl, Lincoln’s whiskers and cadences. The one major performance I can recall that didn’t fit this description is Age of Innocence, and, as much as I loved the film, I thought it among his least distinctive. It occurred to me that maybe, like Alec Guinness, he required a metaphorical costume to slip inside to be truly effective. But, not so: his Reynolds is an absolutely full-bodied creation – petty, maddening, cruel (as flipp notes), but compelling throughout. It’s no secret the best actor slate is a trainwreck this year, and pretty much any old performance might have secured Daniel a nomination. But I think he fully deserves this one, which can stand alongside his best work.

Vicki Krieps is a great discovery, and a perfect sparring partner. Flipp is right to note her occasional physical awkwardness, but that shouldn’t blind us to her spiritual boldness. Right rom the start, she’s ready to go head-to-head with Reynolds, starting in her impudent (and forward) note on the restaurant check. (One thinks she might be leading herself to ruin, but it turns out her recklessness matches perfectly with what Reynolds was seeking.) In another, less actress-dominant year, we might be touting her for a leading slot. That won’t happen here, but we can certainly welcome her as one of the great finds of the year. Lesley Manville, on the other hand, has a shot, and, like flipp, I fully endorse her candidacy. She makes enough impression from the start that her presence is constant throughout…and then she has that wonderful exchange with Reynolds (“You certainly won’t come out alive”) that nails her performance.

With all that I’m saying in praise, why do I say it’s only 9/10 a masterpiece? Because, like BJ and flipp, I found the ending a little surprising and maybe not quite satisfying. I had something of the same issue with The Master, which I thought followed a clear track for most of its running time but then dribbled into a final 15 minutes that had me asking “how and why does this conclude the story you were telling?” I didn’t have that sense so strongly this time, but there was a whiff of it, and it leads me to think BJ is right, that perhaps Anderson could use at least a part-time collaborator who can point him to something that would better satisfy structurally. I hesitate to make that argument too pointedly, because at the same time, I think this is Anderson’s best-written film since There Will Be Blood, or maybe even Magnolia. But the denouement did create my only moments of doubt during the entire two-hours plus.

I don’t that often like to revisit films in the near-term, especially ones I love – it seems folly to try and recapture ecstasy. But this one I might make an exception for, both because there’s so much there to absorb, and also because I might feel differently about the ending on a second view. Meantime, I recommend everyone else seek this out, as one off the high points of what I view as an exceptional year for film.

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Re: Phantom Thread reviews

Postby flipp525 » Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:01 pm

SPOILERS...

I watched a screener of Phantom Thread last night and went into it ready for the bizarre P.T. Anderson-ness of the whole thing to wash over me, prepared for anything, really, as one should be when going into one of his films. I found the trailer so inscrutable, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. What an engaging, at times uncomfortable, film that plumbs the depths of the life of living with an artist.

The movie never really gets into the technical aspects of dress-making so that becomes a placeholder for multiple kinds of artistic expression. The fact that Reynolds Woodcock is able to exhibit his control through his design is palpable almost from his first appearance on camera. But I found it interesting how many times he uses his role as a designer to distance himself from having to "answer" normal human interaction. He can peruse the lines and hems of his work on the model/customer and make small fixes rather than actually look someone in the eye and answer to them. Harriet Sansom Harris (in a kind of brilliant and memorable cameo appearance) is very clearly looking for some human connection with Woodcock when she's come to try on her dress, some reassurance that she is not as ugly as she thinks she is. He really just wants none of it and doesn't look her in the eye. The second time that this really stood out to me was when Alma arranges for the surprise evening. Woodcock is very clearly perturbed by it, almost from the second he walks through the door (why does he so desperately need to know where Cyril is at that point, by the way? He can't even have dinner without his sister at his side.) Instead of engaging Alma on a lover-lover basis, he - yet again - inspects the red dress she is wearing (did she design it herself?), scanning it for imperfections rather than indulge her in celebration.

BJ was getting at an interesting point in his post about the limits of the muse/artist relationship. This might be one of the most complicated portrayals of that relationship in film in recent years and I feel like I'm still processing what this movie says about it.

Lesley Manville's character is really interesting. I think I might have enjoyed her performance the most. What is her end game? Where do her allegiances lie? Was she herself once one of Reynolds' muses when she was younger until he cast her aside too? I felt like the fact that Manville looks like an older version of Vicky Krieps was supposed to maybe lead us in that direction. At a minimum, she must have had a different sort of role in the House of Woodcock at some point? I was sort of mesmerized whenever she was on the screen and I thought the scene where she asks Reynolds if he wants her to get rid of Alma offered better acting than anything I saw Mary J. Blige or Holly Hunter do in their respective films this year. She would be a fantastic dark horse nominee for Best Supporting Actress and I fully endorse her.

Day-Lewis is predictably excellent as the lead here. I don't know if it ranks with some of his truly iconic performances, but it's very full-throated work. I think the screenplay makes us fill in a lot of his backstory and many of the particulars of how Reynolds Woodcock got where he is today, but Day-Lewis is at his best here when he is telegraphing his disgust with Alma. I never believed he was ever in love with her. He might have been in love with the "idea" of her, but his particular form of love seems to be about possession and marking (as he marks his garments with secret messages sewn in). Gangs of New York included, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Day-Lewis act as cruelly as he does in this movie. Vicky Krieps is perfect casting. She's mysterious, has no baggage from other film work so she effortlessly conveys this blank canvas-like character of Alma. I found her work in this very rich at times. A little too gawky and awkward (does Alma ever really settle into her role?) she never goes for the easy way of playing any of these scenes.

I agree with BJ that the movie takes a startling turn towards the end that I'm not sure what to make of. Does Reynolds know that Alma is poisoning him at that point and is he, like, open to it? I believe his last line was something about being hungry again. This was definitely one of the most intriguing, beguiling relationships I've seen portrayed in a recent film and I'm not sure I've totally wrapped my head around the true nature of it. In many ways, Alma's imperfections (and there do seem to be many - she's petulant, moves awkwardly, has questionable table manners, etc.) seem to be the things that Reynolds uses in order to contrast her voluability with his supposed genius. It's kind of a darker take on the Pygmalion story.

Oh, and Johnny Greenwood’s score is absolutely hypnotic. Stunning work. Stay until they play out the credits.
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Re: Phantom Thread reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Thu Dec 07, 2017 3:07 pm

So apparently I somehow missed that Lesley Manville plays Daniel Day-Lewis’s sister, so part of my initial take on their relationship is clearly a little off...LOL.

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Re: Phantom Thread reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Thu Dec 07, 2017 1:43 pm


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Phantom Thread reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Nov 28, 2017 1:32 pm

Paul Thomas Anderson sure makes the darndest movies, doesn't he? Even now having seen Phantom Thread, I can't claim to have any idea how this will do come Oscar time -- I severely underrated There Will Be Blood's chances (didn't think when I saw it it would lead nominations), then overrated the odds for The Master (which barely hung on to the measly three nods it did get), and then went right back to underrating Inherent Vice (figured it would be too loopy for even those two nominations). I suspect Phantom Thread will have a solid number of enthusiasts, as well as those who find it cold and baffling, as well as those who might land where I think I end up, seriously admiring many elements of the film, but wishing their cumulative impact added up to something grander.

Not that every movie needs to be about What Is Happening in 2017 (though I think Mark Harris in his latest column is right that every major movie this year will be interpreted as such), but Phantom Thread does have a timely subtext that I imagine will connect with plenty in Hollywood -- where does the line between the art and the artist get drawn? Should an abusive man be admired for his talent, or held accountable for his personal faults, and is it even possible to do both? The abuses Day-Lewis's character inflicts upon the women in his life are different from the physical/sexual ones we're discussing in real life -- his cruelty is more verbal and psychological. But the push-pull dynamic of attraction and repulsion between Day-Lewis and the two key women in his home (Manville and Krieps) makes for a fascinating character study. I also found the punches of unexpected humor quite welcome -- this isn't as dark a film as There Will Be Blood, but I liked its injections of black comedy amid the elegance of the setting and the film's austere tone/pacing.

Someone on this board a while back (dws???) mentioned that they often admired Anderson's work as a director, but wished he would hire a better writer than himself. Although I've often found Anderson a very impressive writer -- and I do like the curious directions this story goes in, as well as the gripping individual scenes along the way -- I can understand that argument. With this film, I might say that he could have benefited from a collaborator with a stronger grasp on structure, because the ending introduces an element in the Day-Lewis/Krieps relationship that I thought clearly needed to be explored more, but by that point the movie was over. I can imagine many an audience member responding to the conclusion with a total WTF, and while I didn't have that reaction -- I was intrigued by the ideas Anderson seemed to be going for -- they didn't seem to be as well-integrated into the story as I'd have liked. This is primarily what led to my feeling that the film sort of dribbled away, without building to a cohesive statement.

A nomination for Costume Design seems like a gimme, both for the glamour of the high fashion pieces as well as the lived-in quality of the more casual wear. (It's a neat touch that in the wedding scene, the bride is clearly not wearing a Woodcock gown.) And I'd deeply wish for Original Score as well -- the nearly wall-to-wall music is heavenly, and after the composers branch got a bit adventurous last year, it could finally be Jonny Greenwood's time for a nomination. I also wonder if folks have been underestimating Day-Lewis as a Best Actor candidate. Not as a winner -- the role isn't nearly in the tremendous There Will Be Blood/Lincoln league -- but he's playing a decently complex character and has a few obviously dominant scenes. If so many think Dench and Streep will get nominations because they always do...wouldn't the same reasoning benefit Day-Lewis, who has a pretty great batting average of his own? (Plus there's the "this is his final film!" campaign.)

Between this and The Beguiled, perhaps awards groups need a new category this year: Best Supporting Mushrooms?

On the whole, well worth seeing for the cinephile crowd, but who knows how much impact it will have in more mainstream circles.
Last edited by The Original BJ on Thu Dec 07, 2017 3:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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