“When I was a boy I started to hide things in the linings of the garments. Things that only I knew were there – Secrets.”
Paul Thomas Anderson has mastered the craft of creating tension in a flurry and dissipating them with a wink of an eye. There is an air of ridiculous uncertainty that hangs in each and every moment of Phantom Thread. Sobriety is often hoodwinked by humor which then ends up turning deadly. Motives remain elusive as emotions run havoc under the skin while we are let to simmer ourselves in this sumptuously perverse fever dream of love and power dynamics.
For somebody who breathes around royalties and surrounds himself with innumerable ladies, we are introduced to Reynolds Woodcock as an overbearingly obsessed fashion designer of late 50’s in Great Britain. As he pulls his purple socks up to the knees and walks around his mansions in the early scenes, Anderson constructs his character methodologically. Layer by layer, he embeds the essential elements of raw masculine force in Woodcock – demanding, vicious, cold and deviously cynical.
“I feel I’ve been looking for you for a very long time”, whispers Woodcock when he first stumbles upon his recent lady love – Alma. Woodcock then invites Alma to his art-house, his home, yet another muse for yet another of his passion project. Alma adjusts herself as a naive dove in a mighty wolf’s abode. Love blooms, banter interrupts, laughs echoes, blue blood spills and till the turn of the third act, nothing remains what it essentially was. Paul Thomas Anderson masterfully takes the most simplest of power dynamics into something toxically twisted and deranged.
There are extensions of human emotions that are bent to challenge norms. Anderson has explored the power dynamics and concepts of submission-dominance in The Master. With Phantom Thread, he has fondled with depths of longing and loneliness, even the likes of Woodcock can muster inside. The cinematography is picturesque, the conversations between Cyril-Woodcock-Alma are simply lip smacking, costumes are lavish and background score utterly grand – Jonny Greenwood literally make and break scenes, with dashes of hypnotic piano pieces. But all of the aesthetics, all of the artworks, all of the content takes back seat when Daniel Day Lewis appears. He is virtually a scene-stealer, an actor on top of his craft, caressing every syllable that comes out of his mouth, carefully constructing every line on his face to seep inside Woodcock’s persona.
Like a proficient seamster weaving ghost laces from thin air into beautiful poetry, Paul Thomas Anderson has crafted the majestically dreamy Phantom Thread with a subtle elegance. It explores the darker instincts of human desires, takes wicked turns and reach to a destination nobody saw coming. Psychologically dense while being visually astounding, Phantom Thread is in its true essence, the spiritual sequel to The Master.