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A film with brewing conflict and tension so thick you could slice it with scissors.
Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film Phantom Thread is a torrid and smothering, 1950s London-set portrayal of a highly-regarded fashion designer. It features the (alleged) final performance from the legendary Daniel Day-Lewis, and it's an astonishing note to go out on.
Meet the very hands-on dressmaker, Reynolds Woodstock. He's a cranky perfectionist -- the type of person you walk on eggshells around. The film sees the life-long bachelor become infatuated with a woman named Alma (Vicky Krieps), and what essentially unfurls is an exhausting exercise in getting on each other's nerves. In fact, it would go very well with The Beguiled, and the divisive Mother!
Anyway, it isn't a film that's heavy on plot, and at times it can feel a bit unmomentous, but this fascinating character study intently thrives on brewing conflict (a lot of steamy tea is served up), as well as tension that's so thick that you could stick a sewing needle into it or slice it with a pair of scissors. A darkly and deeply uncomfortable sense of humor is weaved throughout, and a repetitious pattern of themes about artistry and meticulous craft, toxic love and admiration, jealousy and vengeance, and poisonous power dynamics rounds out the overall vision. Appropriately, the film itself is handsomely framed and ravishingly staged with vivid texture and operatic gusto. It's also backed by a prominent weep of soaringly elegant music that certainly bolsters the drama.
What's also fitting is that -- for a film about achieving perfection -- Daniel Day-Lewis sinks into this role with complete dedication and ever-impressive skill -- alternating between icy and warm, eccentric and focused, humorous and downright mean. It's a performance that captivates every time he's on screen -- you'll be paying attention to every step, every eyebrow movement. And I can't go without mentioning the supporting cast: Vicky Krieps as Alma is excellent -- going from timid to tumultuous to vengeful. And then there's Lesley Manville as Woodcock's stern sister and assistant -- she administers a scathing stare that practically shoots laser beams through you.
The final stretch of the duration drags on awhile, and it probably could've used some snipping, but this is still one of those films that stays with you. And the final bow (say it ain't so!) from one of the greatest actors of all time is one that you won't want to miss.