Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest movie, is one every creative should see. It stars the genius actor, Daniel Day Lewis, in what is reputedly his final role, but his co-stars Lesley Manville and Vicky Krieps, also shine in this exquisite three-hander.
Going to see it was my create date this week. (Taking a create date is a weekly practice for creatives and creative entrepreneurs, that keeps you steady and creatively attuned. Find out more here).
An immaculately elegant period piece, set in the world of 1950s London haute couture, Phantom Thread is magnificently scripted, acted, lit, scored, directed and costumed, and made for a delectable create date.
It’s also one of the strangely loveliest love stories I’ve ever seen.
What makes it of interest to creatives everywhere, though, is its exploration of the artistic temperament. What it’s like to live with a devoted artist. Oh, the lengths to which they can drive themselves … and the poor unfortunates who live with them.
DDL’s character is Reynolds Woodcock, dressmaker to English and European royalty and gentry, actresses and heiresses, socialites and drunkard American dames. The movie opens with Reynolds getting dressed himself, showing us his fussy fastidiousness as his dressmaking staff line up the stairs into his beautiful home, to begin their day’s work at The House of Woodcock.
Over breakfast, we discover that his sister Cyril, has dispatched his last muse for becoming too demanding. On a trip to the country, he meets her replacement: Alma. A European waitress, strong and strong-willed, she begins to unpick his hitherto ordered existence as soon as Cyril tries to keep it together.
The soundtrack to the film mixes Debussy and Schuber with a robust original score by Jonny Greenwood but there’s also the track of thread on silk, the scrape of knife on toast, the fall of tea poured into china cups, from a great height. As the relationship unfolds, muse and artist begin to fight each other for control, of their electric, apparently mismatched love affair. And of the art.
Is Alma gentle and benign, we begin to wonder. Or sinister and terrifying? Does Reynolds deserve what seems to be coming his way? Who’s going to win … and what a pyrrhic victory it will be. The emotions tighten in an ever-darkening direction…
Then, the fabulous, unexpected, but completely perfect denouement.
See it to watch art in motion, but also to see what it’s like, to live with somebody when you must also live with their art. Ask your significant other to sees it too and afterwards, discuss: How much do you have in common with Reynolds, and them with Alma?
And how do you both cope when art sends you more than a little crazy?
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