Friday, February 02, 2018

Review: Phantom Thread

As Exquisite As Belgian Lace
As Deadly As Omphalotus Olivascens 

4 stars

Mini Review: 

This film delights the senses in so many different ways. Mostly, it is a visual feast and I'm not talking about just watching Daniel Day Lewis. But this film is a challenge to everything you believed love is. If you are used to crash, boom, bang of popular cinema, stay away. But if you can linger and loiter in the richness of every frame, then you will come away wholly satisfied.

Main Review:

This is a Daniel Day Lewis visual feast. His last film as an actor. So it goes without saying you buy tickets quietly, and go see the film.

This is about London in the 50s. What's not to love? The clothes are beautiful, the setting is beautiful and the difference between upstairs and downstairs is delicately created. You will love the seamstresses march up the stairs, you will love the discipline of the design house of Reynolds Woodcock (that's Daniel Day Lewis). Breakfast is so quiet, they eat toast noiselessly. Cyril manages the house and the business beautifully. Reynolds gets to be creative, eccentric and abusive. 

Abusive? There's a third person at the breakfast table. Pretty girl who has 'become fat waiting for you to fall in love with her again'. Reynolds doesn't need that, so Cyril 'deals with the situation. She is no more than mannequin for Reynolds, who sits at the table sketching new designs...

To get over the podgy, creamy pastry the girl, Cyril suggests he drive over to the country house. You watch with envy as Reynolds drives through the most picturesque English countryside. The beauty is so overwhelming you have to close your eyes. But you cannot. Reynolds meets this tall, gorgeous waitress who brings him breakfast of Welsh rarebit, toast, cream, porridge, jam (not strawberries) and some sausages. Not to forget Lapsang Souchong tea. She calls him 'Hungry boy' and he smiles (lighting up the screen!). You know he's going to seduce this country lass, and this relationship hollows your stomach when he wipes off her lipstick and says, 'I want to see who I'm with'.

If that is not creepy, then when he orders her to take off her clothes at his home, you are about to scream but you don't because he's going to make her a dress. Cyril has shown up (as she promised) and without a word, she is imperiously ordered to write down the girl's measurements. Undressed as she is, the country girl shows spunk when she tells him that her name is Alma. Not just Cyril, we like her too. There is some steel in there.

She comes home to London and he begins to design clothes on her. She learns to eat her toast quietly but whenever she gets angry, she shows it by pouring his Lapsang from a height that makes it noisy. There are sighs from the women in the audience. If only they had expressed their boiling over like Alma...

The story moves forward at a sedate pace but there's nothing dull on the screen. Alma, played by Luxembourg actor Vicky Krieps is fabulous. She is so fragile and yet so powerful, she would be the single reason tourism to her country will increase this year. 

Alma's jealousies, her love, Cyril's care, Cyril's respect for Alma, balance out the 'I will have my way because I'm Woodcock' Daniel Day Lewis. The house of Woodcock seems silently efficient, but the undercurrents are so strong you would be swept halfway across the world before you could scream for help. 

The dresses are a dream, the flowers in the house seem to be responding to the mood of the occupants of the house, the country house is such a visual treasure, the mushrooms...

Alma turns Reynolds into putty in her arms, and we fear for him because the power equation in this relationship changes so brilliantly. Is it the mushrooms? Or the drunk customer who according to Alma, 'does not deserve to wear a Woodcock' and needs to be stripped off. 

Anyone who has ever imagined the price of a designer dress would agree at the horror of discovering, 'She slept in the Woodcock?'

What is so beautiful about Daniel Day Lewis is how completely mensch he is even when he is not shown to be at the physical prime of his life. He is gaunt and set in his ways, but how beautiful are his hands when he's sketching at the breakfast table? How completely Oscar worthy is his agitation when he discovers she has actually taken off to the Dance? How Oscar worthy is that moment when he watches her cook mushrooms and accepts this love? How Oscar worthy is that moment when he realises that the noisy pouring of the tea, and the buttering of the toast is something he would have to live with...

And I would kill to have written the dialog when he orders Alma to take the tea away from his design space, 'The tea you will take away, but the interruption remains'...

This film is like fine art. Has a certain je ne sais quoi which you might find on a field of pink musk roses in Iran or catching the magic hour in Tuscany or when you have been pushed into the coldest waters of the ocean with no hope of seeing the horizon again. 

The only reason it does not get five stars is they use the the phrase, 'Fuck Off'. When everything else is so posh, the common insult felt rather out of place and incongruous. Watch it. You'll want to buy a pack of Omphalotus Olivasens mushrooms for your loved ones. In your head.


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