The House of Woodcock comes alive every morning. Heralded by the quiet arrival of an all female staff, this London fashion house slowly wakes from its slumber and greets the new day with intentional silence. It must be silent, it must be respectful because it contains a genius, a beloved designer who's work adorns queens, princesses and the cream of high society. A designer who, while excelling his craft, winces at the crunch of toast hailing it as a creative blockade that cannot be overcome.
Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a complicated and flawed creator. His work is stunning and relies in equal measure on his latest muse, and the efficiency of his spinster sister Cyril (Lesley Manville). These three strands keep the House of Woodcock ticking over at a pace that produces great beauty but can all too easily slide into brutal efficiency. This is very apparent in early scenes as Reynolds and Cyril discuss his latest muse having run her course and outstayed her welcome in the hallowed Woodcock home.
This changes when Reynolds encounters Alma (Vicky Krieps). He falls for her instantly, whisks her into his home and begins to create with a passion that had previously been absent. Like all previous iterations Reynolds begins to lose his creativity and thus his love and need for Alma. This time though things are different, Alma resists his attempts to cut her loose. She refuses to bend, refuses to wilt in the face of his brutality and what develops is a twisted dependency that inspires both to become versions of themselves they could not have predicted.
The gaps between Paul Thomas Anderson films almost make you forget how great a film maker he is. In an age where films are churned out with factory like efficiency by some, it is refreshing to spend time watching a film that is so clearly crafted with great care.
Shots lingering, asking the viewer to assess the unspoken thoughts of those on screen, a score that sings the song of Reynolds and Alma over and above all other music no matter how important or incidental. Close up shots of calloused hands creating beauty are paired with wicked tongues that can cut with greater sharpness than any pair of scissors this house can hold. The frantic shots of Reynolds Woodcock driving through country lanes with a fervour that a man with his levels of measured care and precision should not possess give a depth that other film makers would simply ignore. All these elements combine to create something wonderful and something that, much like the dresses created, we forgot we needed so desperately.
If this is to be the last performance Daniel Day-Lewis gives then this is an incredibly way to leave the stage. The true star of the film however is Krieps who has power, venom and guts in her performance that at times shocked me, amazed me and enraptured me. Which is precisely the spell Alma weaves over Reynolds throughout and I fell for it as much as he did.
This is a film for creators, crafters and those inspired to create.
This is a film that reminds those of us who create to treat those we depend on for inspiration with great respect. We need these people more than we know.
Phantom Thread has great depth, beauty and chaos. Quite simply Phantom Thread is a cinematic work of highest couture.
Phantom Thread is classified as a 15 certificate by the BBFC
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Running time: 130 mins
Phantom Thread is released in UK and Irish cinemas on 2nd February.
Thanks to MovieHouse for screening access