Phantom Thread (Academy Award nomination)
Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis (Academy Award nomination), Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville (Academy Award Nomination), Richard Graham and Camilla Rutherford
Director/Scriptwriter: Paul Thomas Anderson  (Academy Award Nomination)
Composer: Jonny Greenwood (Academy Award Nomination)
Rating: R for themed material
Running Length: 130 Minutes

Daniel Day-Lewis, who insists “Phantom Thread” will be his last film before retiring, has inhabited yet another character. Reynolds Woodcock is a fashion designer, London, in the mid 1950’s. Day-Lewis studied with a master cutter for months to achieve the correct angle at cutting fabric for this role. Would you have expected otherwise? What makes this movie is not only the acting, but composer Jonny Greenwood gives us a soundtrack that literally rustles as fabric moves on people. It would be as though you put on an exquisite dress and had music trailing behind you.  So immersed in his creations is Reynolds, that when one wealthy lady wears his dress to a party and drinks too much, Reynolds and his helpers go to her room, retrieve the dress from her sleeping body and take it back. “She is not worthy of this dress,” states one person to the lady’s maid. The creation has achieved  a life of its own and is worth more than the buyer.

Basically, “Phantom Thread” turns into a love story between two people who have wills of their own. Who will be dominant? Who will bend? In the meantime, who will be hurt outside the twosome?  Do they really care? Such topics are addressed. The film begins as Reynolds Woodcock is doing his seasonal showing of dress designs. People approach him with awe and his loyal sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville) protects him and runs the show. She could cut through glass at thirty paces with a glare. Needing time off, Reynolds goes to the countryside and stops at a small cafe. There he meets a clumsy waitress with attitude, Alma (Vicky Krieps) and they have an attraction for each other. In something of a “My Fair Lady” theme, Alma eventually comes to live at Reynold’s house, starts to learn the craft of dressmaking, and becomes his latest muse for fashion. As the story goes along, they discover each other’s foibles (loud crunching in eating toast for her), and drift apart. What to do? In Reynold’s world, he would just find another muse, but Alma will not have that and begins a dangerous game of her own. In the meantime, Cyril is ever in the background keeping peace and you discover that her life has been taking care of her brother. Albert Einstein was a man who was taken care of by his second wife---so it makes you wonder if genius can take care of itself, or always needs tending.

The 1950’s has never looked so elegant as this world of London fashion. Reynolds has been at it so long, when a princess comes in for the fitting of her wedding gown, he remarks that he made her christening gown, her confirmation gown and now her wedding gown. Do you remember Grace Kelly’s gown when she married Prince Rainier? This one is similar. Women have dresses for morning, noon, afternoon, late afternoon, evening, travel, and so on. It is definitely a world of money and whose “name” you are wearing. Meals have components you can’t pronounce and houses are hundreds of years old and have been in families that long. A far cry from your local box store.

The soundtrack caught me right away and carries one through the film. It’s like riding on a breeze that goes in one room and out another, up stairs, out windows and down the lane. Daniel Day-Lewis really caught the ambience of a fashion designer with his facial expression of amusement and aloofness. He is just in another plane than everyone else. Lesley Manville as his sister, is stoic, but ever watchful of her brother and calms the storms that ripple around him with a soft voice and elegant phrasing. Newcomer Vicky Krieps as Alma, has strength in her performance and does not have the fashion model shape, but  she appeals to Reynolds. I found her performance a bit stiff and thought there were times, especially in an restaurant, when she would relax, but it didn’t happen. The camera dwells on her face, but there is no emotion.

Will this really be Daniel Day-Lewis’ last film before retiring from acting?  Some have said that, and then another “right role” could came along. Who can forget his “My Left Foot,” “The Last of the Mohicans” (my favorite) or “Lincoln.” The man carefully chooses his material and takes months or years to perfect his technic. Would there be time enough for another role? Let’s see what happens at Oscar time which is March 4, 2018. In the meantime, for fashionista’s. observe what goes on behind the scenes to put on a first class fashion show.

Copyright 2018 Marie Asner