10 Films To Watch If You Love Phantom Thread (2017): Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the few filmmakers whose films are very hard to describe in a single sentence. His films require multiple watches and are structured in a multi-layered fashion. With his most recent film- Phantom Thread (2017), the American auteur who was once hailed as a “wunderkind of cinema” has cemented his place in the cinematic canon of the 21st century. Having made one of the greatest films of the decade, namely- There will be Blood (2007), The Master (2012) and now Phantom Thread (2015), PT Anderson is a giant of Hollywood whose films are closest to the ambiguous cinema of Stanley Kubrick.
That he is often referred to as one of the greatest post-modern film directors of all time, hasn’t stopped the forty-eight-year-old writer/director from taking the audience; film critics and scholars by shock and awe.
His most recent film Phantom Thread is about a dressmaker named Reynolds Woodcock (name pun, eh?), who has cultivated a fine and ostentatious lifestyle for himself. This is reflected in his food choices, his attention to details about the dresses he makes and his lifestyle which reek of high-society life. This reclusive life which he has weaved for himself is disrupted by Alma (which means soul in Spanish) – a woman he takes under his wing and who eventually becomes his muse and wife.
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Other than the multilayered narrative of the film, Phantom Thread will also be remembered as Daniel Day Lewis’s swan song. An actor of Day Lewis’s stature who belongs to the School of Method Acting has given a subtle performance as Woodcock – a man who is a tormented soul and who harbors childhood trauma in connection with his mother’s untimely death.
To the ones who admire Phantom Thread (2017), the list below encapsulates films that are similar to Phantom Thread in terms of common elements, structure and thematic concerns of the filmmakers. The line-up is in no particular order:
1. The Passionate Friends (1949)
Directed by Sir David Lean, the film left a huge mark on PT Anderson who in The Director Cut’s podcast, being interviewed by Rian Johnson, called Passionate Friends as a film he was obsessed with. Anderson was especially smitten by the classic score of the film which he said had a huge influence on Phantom Thread’s musical score.
Based on a novel by HG Wells, the film centers around a couple whose life is disjointed when the wife’s former lover visits her. Interestingly, the New Year’s Eve party in Phantom Thread echoes a similar party scene in The Passionate Friends, which shows the lasting impression of this film on PTA.
2. The Dressmaker (2015)
This film which is about a dressmaker who doubles up as a femme fatale offers a strong lead performance by Kate Winslet. The dressmaker played by Winslet goes to a village and establishes her haute couture style in the place to transform other women and take revenge on the ones who did her wrong.
While it is a revenge-drama film, it also explores themes of creativity and glamour. The director of the film, Jocelyn Moorhouse called the film “Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven but with sewing machines”. Based on Rosalie Ham’s novel of the same name, Kate Winslet stirs the plot of the film to a satisfactory end, although glaring flaws in the writing of the film makes it a guilty pleasure. Here is second entry in films to watch if you love Phantom Thread (2017).
3. Dior and I (2014)
If you loved the high-profile fashion society in Phantom Thread (2017), then you must check out this film. This documentary would give the viewers an insight into the fashion scene of the Christian Dior Fashion House. It chronicles Raf Simons’ first season as Artistic Director of Dior and his collection of haute couture.
The Behind-the-scenes footage demonstrates the unnerving time-bound labor of the creators of couture vis-à-vis the colorful and often privileged status given to Christian Dior SE. The documentary also comes off as an homage to seamstresses who worked under Simons. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014 and was met with generally positive reviews.
4. The Chambermaid Lynn (2014)
If you want to see more of Vicky Krieps, The Chambermaid is a good film, to begin with. Starring Krieps as a voyeuristic woman who is employed as a chambermaid in a hotel, the film is about Krieps’ character who on the job, meets a dominatrix woman and goes on a spree of sexual adventure with her.
The film intrigued Paul Thomas Anderson who, in a Rolling Stone interview cited this film as the reason why he cast Vicky Krieps as Alma in Phantom Thread. The director remarked, “She (Krieps) has one of those faces that turns in about 45 directions at once”.
5. The Master (2012)
For the ones who are in love with PT Anderson’s world which is shot using extensive and picturesque camerawork, this film should be next on your watch-list. The Master deals with the life of an Ex-Naval war veteran named Freddie Quell, adeptly played by Joaquin Phoenix, who stumbles upon a religious movement known as ‘The Cause’ under the aegis of Lancaster Dodd, played by the seamless Philip Seymour Hoffman.
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The film has been repeatedly cited as one of the greatest films of the decade with critical acclaim given to the film’s direction, screenplay, cinematography, acting, and musical score. The Jonny Greenwood orchestrated score is haunting and subtle. The score of Phantom Thread is also composed by Jonny Greenwood, whose prowess can raise the cinematic experience to fever pitch heights.
6. Yves Saint Laurent (2014)
Based on the life of Head of Design at the House of Dior, Yves Saint Lauren is the film of a real personality, unlike Woodcock who is a concoction of several fashion designers. The film depicts the life of the French designer whose career skyrocketed after he launched the spring collection of 1958, saving the house from financial distress.
If you admired the fashion world depicted in Phantom Thread (2017), check out this film which will give you a sneak-peak into the dazzling fashion society of Christian Dior SE. That year, another biopic on Laurent was released which came to be known as ‘Saint Laurent’. However, Yves Saint Laurent is considered a far better film by critic’s circle.
7. Beau Brummel (1924)
This film has had a heavy influence on the characterization of Reynolds Woodcock. PT Anderson was introduced to this film by Jonny Greenwood who once gave a reference of British Regency dandy – Beau Brummel, in a conversation. The character of Brummel, who is credited with the invention of modern men’s suit, inspired PTA to make a film about a fashion designer.
Several films have been made on the life of Beau Brummel, but, this film, in particular, throws light on Brummel’s love life more than his professional life. Like Woodcock, the character of Brummel in this 1924 film, had many affairs with women and lives a reclusive life delved deeply in revelry and loneliness.
8. Rebecca (1940)
This masterpiece by Alfred Hitchcock which is based on a novel by Daphne Du Maurier presents a setting which is similar to that of The House of Woodcock in Phantom Thread. PTA was so fascinated by Rebecca that he has given several references to this and other masterpieces of Hitchcock in Phantom Thread.
In a press briefing, Anderson even mentioned Rebecca as an inspiration for his film. The commonality between both the films can be found in the character sketch- Both Reynolds Woodcock and Maxim De Winter belong to a high-society group who get into a relationship with women with low social standing. Both films also explore the power dynamics in a crumbled relationship.
9. The Age of Innocence (1993)
This Martin Scorsese masterpiece is a story about a lawyer played by Daniel Day-Lewis who falls for a woman played by Michelle Pfeiffer, amid a high society New York. Based on an eponymous novel by Edith Wharton, the story revolves around the young lawyer’s life which takes a dark turn when he accosts a woman (Pfeiffer) out of his wedlock.
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The film is replete with moments of sexual tension and power tussle between both the lovers. Michelle Pfeiffer, whose character is a manifestation of ‘passionate love’ gives a breathtaking performance. The film is noted for its theme of crushed passion in the face of morality and marital constraints.
10. Psycho (1960)
I kept this one for last. Alfred Hitchcock’s magnum opus which has become an ageless psychological-drama has a few common elements with Phantom Thread (2017). The film is about a woman who embezzles money from her employer, takes refuge in a motel, only to be killed in a shower by a stranger. The character of Norman Bates is evil personified. However, Bates’ character can be deconstructed as a victim of childhood trauma in connection with his mother which makes him preserve the mummified corpse of his mother.
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To draw a parallel, Reynolds Woodcock also harbors a traumatic past about his mother’s untimely death. The ‘ghost mother’ sequence in the film which is complemented by a haunting background OST by Jonny Greenwood, illustrates Woodcock’s unrequited words for his mother and his quest to make sense of his mother’s absence.