Phantom Thread

USA 2017, 130 mins
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

SPOILER WARNING The following notes give away some of the plot.

Control freaks abound in the films of Paul Thomas Anderson: takes one to know one, as the saying goes. Phantom Thread’s high-end fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock, who custom-makes dresses for royalty and hoi polloi in London circa 1950s, is as much a model of obsessive-compulsive mania as Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood (2007); this master-dressmaker works in softer and more pliant materials than the wildcat oilman, but is similarly uncompromising about his process and results.

In contrast to his much lauded, Oscar-winning performance in Blood, Daniel Day-Lewis doesn’t shoot the works in Phantom Thread. In fact, in what he has declared will be his final role, he cedes the movie to his much less heralded co-star, the Luxembourgeois actress Vicky Krieps. It’s a gesture that is both in keeping with the script’s tricky, point-of-view-shifting structure and with Anderson’s own imaginative immersion – after two decades of fixating on macho masochism – inside a female consciousness. It’s a reversal that makes the director’s eighth feature his most ambitious and surprising.

In Inherent Vice (2014), Anderson worked dutifully to Thomas Pynchon’s epic, novelistic template and skilfully integrated his own obsessions about damaged societal outsiders and the mythology of his native Los Angeles. Phantom Thread, which is Anderson’s first movie set fully outside California, serves a different Master. Its clear dramatic model is Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 adaptation of Rebecca, in which a nervous, untutored young woman is brought into the confidence (and marriage bed) of a mysterious, fabulously prosperous older man only to find herself dwarfed in his affections by the memory of his departed first wife. PTA’s cinephile-prankster side finds expression in naming his Second Mrs de Winter stand-in Alma – a possible salute to Hitchcock’s wife and editor Alma Reville (and Hitchcock himself is paid homage in the Day-Lewis character’s surname).

The Rebecca figure, meanwhile, is not a dead spouse but, in another plausibly Hitchcockian nod, the spectre/structuring absence of Reynolds’s late mother, who did a number on her son to the point that he’s become England’s suavest, most seductive commitment-phobe. Dashing and handsome when he goes out on the town and given to massive appetites – he meets Alma when she serves him a hilariously heavy breakfast while working in a restaurant in the countryside – Reynolds is a Bluebeard whose manor is home not to the corpses of ex-wives but to a wealth of dresses, each measured to the contours of live-in lovers long since discarded as easily as their formal wear.

At first, Alma feels like an outsider in the House of Woodcock (go on, read that sentence and try to deny that this is a comedy). But she soon grows cosy in her role as Reynolds’s prize mannequin, assuming pride of place in the household and unnerving Reynolds’s older sister Cyril, played by Lesley Manville. (In the Rebecca-esque schema of the script, Cyril is an update of the sinister, manipulative housekeeper Mrs Danvers; she’s there to keep the man of the house from succumbing to true romance.)

It’s when Alma decides that she wants more, and Reynolds begins to worry about what that intimacy is going to do to his aura of aloof impenetrability, that Phantom Thread begins to cultivate its devastatingly funny domestic subtexts. Not only does Krieps hold her own with Day-Lewis in the scenes where Alma begins to impose her will on Reynolds, but she sustains Anderson’s precarious perspectival conceit, which is to get inside the mindset of a (supposedly) great artist’s muse (basically what Darren Aronofsky tried and failed to do last year in mother!).

The tension between Anderson’s wicked sense of humour and his immaculate craftsmanship – the latter placed in even sharper relief by scenes depicting Reynolds’s own meticulous process, legible but not underlined as an allegory for filmmaking – is potent stuff. It’s made even more so by the relative sense of formal restraint. Acting for the first time as his own cinematographer, Anderson opts for a trim efficiency of camera movement that’s so much more refined than his brash 1990s features that he could be a different filmmaker.

At the same time, the cloistered, claustrophobic compositions and precise, intricate stitching of Dylan Tichenor’s editing don’t delimit the script’s expansive, suggestive ideas about creativity and co-dependency, nor do they constrain the interpretative spaciousness of a work that critiques the allure of surfaces without tarnishing its own. Phantom Thread’s apparent severity is a brilliant disguise that only really unravels in retrospect: what’s underneath is a battle-of-the-sexes comedy that ruthlessly strips away layers of archetype and artifice to arrive at its maker’s most nakedly happily-ever-after ending to date – a resolution whose casual insanity bypasses Hitchcock, makes a beeline for Buñuel, and gets there in one piece.
Adam Nayman, Sight and Sound, February 2018

PHANTOM THREAD Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
©: Phantom Thread LLC
a Joanne Sellar/Ghoulardi Film Company production
Presented by: Focus Features, Annapurna Pictures
In association with: Perfect World Pictures
Production Supervisors: Claudia Cimmino, Karen Ramirez
Production Co-ordinator: Erin Duffy
Financial Controller: Trevor Stanley
Production Accountant: Joe Downs
Unit Manager: Drew Payne
Supervising Location Manager: Jason Wheeler
Location Managers: Andrew Ryland, Emma Collinson, Charlotte Mason
Location Manager (Yorkshire): Matthew Bowden
Location Manager (Blackpool): James Buxton
Location Co-ordinator: Victoria Wilson
Assistant Location Manager (Cotswolds): Tom Barnes
Assistant Location Manager: Anna Vahrman
Post-production Supervisor: Erica Frauman
Crowd Second Assistant Director:
Katharina Hofmann
Third Assistant Director:
Caroline ‘Carla’ Kaempfer
Crowd Assistant Director: Emyr Glyn Rees
Script Supervisor: Annie Penn
Casting Associate: Sarah Trevis
Extras Casting: The Casting Collective, Ltd.
Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Gaffer: Jonathan Franklin
Best Boy: Steve Young
UK Grips: Gary Hutchings, Nick Ray
Visual Effects by: Digital District, lola VFX
Special Effects Supervisor: Chris Reynolds
Edited by: Dylan Tichenor
Associate Editor: Andy Jurgensen
Production Design by: Mark Tildesley
Supervising Art Director: Dennis Schnegg
Art Directors: Chris Peters, Adam Squires
Assistant Art Director: Lara Genovese
Set Decorator: Véronique Melery
Graphic Designer: Felicity Hickson
Buyers: Janice MacRae, Kamlan Man
Property Master: Paul Stewart
Costume Design by: Mark Bridges
Mr Day-Lewis’ Shoes Provided by:
George Cleverly and Co. Limited,
Anderson Sheppard
Assistant Costume Designers: Sophie Bugeaud, Joe Garrad, Elizabeth Moul
Costume Supervisor: Marco Scotti
Crowd Costume Supervisor: Tim Aslam
Set Costume Supervisor: Rebecca Higginson
Costume Co-ordinator: Cédric Andries
Make-up Designer: Paul Engelen
Make-up Artist: Daniel Lawson Johnston
Hair Designer: John Henry Gordon
Hair Stylist: Emma Bailey
Main Titles by: The Picture Mill
Dailies Colourist: Jodie Davidson
Digital Colourist: Gregg Garvin
Music by: Jonny Greenwood
Score Performed by:
London Contemporary Orchestra,
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Conducted by: Robert Ames (London Contemporary Orchestra), Robert Ziegler (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra)
Orchestration by: Jonny Greenwood
Music Supervisor: Linda Cohen
Sound Designer: Christopher Scarabosio
Production Sound Mixer: Adrian Bell
Boom Operator: Adam Ridge
Re-recording Mixers: Christopher Scarabosio, David Acord
Supervising Sound Editors:
Christopher Scarabosio, Matthew Wood
Stunt Co-ordinator: Gary Powell
For: Jonathan Demme

Daniel Day-Lewis (Reynolds Woodcock)
Lesley Manville (Cyril Woodcock)
Vicky Krieps (Alma)
Julie Vollono (London housekeeper)
Sue Clark (Biddy)
Joan Brown (Nana)
Harriet Leitch (Pippa)
Dinah Nicholson (Elsa)
Julie Duck (Irma)
Maryanne Frost (Winn)
Elli Banks (Elli)
Amy Cunningham (Mabel)
Amber Brabant (Amber)
Geneva Corlett (Geneva)
Juliet Glaves (florist)
Camilla Rutherford (Johanna)
Gina McKee (Countess Henrietta Harding)
Philip Franks (Peter Martin)
Tony Hansford (petrol station owner)
Steven F. Thompson (maître’d)
George Glasgow (Nigel Cheddar-Goode)
Niki Angus-Campbell (young fan)
Georgia Kemball (young fan’s friend)
Nick Ashley (Charles Gayford)
Ingrid Sophie Schram, Ellie Blackwell,
Zarene Dallas (house models)
Brian Gleeson (Dr Robert Hardy)
Pauline Moriarty (Minetta)
Harriet Sandom Harris (Barbara Rose)
Eric Sigmundsson (Cal Rose)
Phyllis McMahon (Tippy)
Richard Graham (George Riley of the News of the World_)_
Silas Carson (Rubio Gurrerro)
Martin Dew (John Evans of The Daily Mail_)_
James Thomson (reporter)
Tim Ahern (Barbara’s lawyer)
Lujza Richter (Princess Mona Braganza)
Leopoldine Hugo (Princess Mona’s brother)
Delia Remy, Alice Grenier (bridesmaids)
Emma Clandon (Reynolds’ mother)
Ian Harrod (registrar)
Sarah Lamesch (Steff)
Julia Davis (Lady Baltimore)
Nicholas Mander (Lord Baltimore)
Jordon Stevens (Lady Baltimore’s daughter)
Michael Stevenson (MC, New Year’s Eve party)
Jane Perry (Mrs Vaughan)
Charlotte Melén (young fashionable woman)

USA 2017©
130 mins
Digital 4K

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Mon 16 Oct 14:30; Sat 4 Nov 14:20; Mon 13 Nov 17:50; Tue 28 Nov 20:20
The Private Life of Henry VIII
Mon 16 Oct 18:20; Tue 7 Nov 20:50; Mon 27 Nov 14:40
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman
Tue 17 Oct 14:30; Sat 21 Oct 12:30; Mon 20 Nov 20:30
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Tue 17 Oct 20:25; Sun 12 Nov 12:00
Phantom Thread
Wed 18 Oct 14:30; Fri 10 Nov 10:30; Thu 23 Nov 20:30
French Cancan
Wed 18 Oct 18:10 (+ intro by Geoff Andrew, Programmer-at-Large); Wed 1 Nov 14:30; Thu 9 Nov 20:30
Blood and Sand
Thu 19 Oct 14:30; Sun 22 Oct 15:00; Wed 1 Nov 18:10 (+ intro); Sat 18 Nov 20:30
An American in Paris
Thu 19 Oct 20:50; Tue 24 Oct 20:35; Thu 23 Nov 18:00; Sun 26 Nov 11:30
Fri 20 Oct 20:45; Mon 30 Oct 14:30; Sat 18 Nov 11:40
The Tempest
Mon 23 Oct 20:40; Sat 18 Nov 13:00; Wed 22 Nov 18:20 (+ intro by Claire Smith, BFI National Archive Senior Curator)
Wed 25 Oct 18:30 (+ intro by Bryony Dixon, BFI National Archive Curator); Sun 5 Nov 12:00
Black Orpheus Orfeu Negro
Thu 26 Oct 20:35; Wed 15 Nov 18:00 (+ intro by journalist and broadcaster Kevin Le Gendre)
Wings of Desire Der Himmel über Berlin
Fri 27 Oct 18:00; Tue 21 Nov 14:30; Sat 25 Nov 20:25
Do the Right Thing
Sat 28 Oct 20:40; Fri 17 Nov 18:10
The Queen of Spades
Sun 29 Oct 12:20; Tue 31 Oct 14:40; Wed 8 Nov 18:20 (+ intro by Josephine Botting, BFI National Archive Curator); Thu 16 Nov 20:40
Thu 2 Nov 20:50; Fri 10 Nov 14:30; Wed 29 Nov 18:20 (+ intro by writer, curator and researcher Jenny Chamarette)
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Fri 3 Nov 20:50; Sat 11 Nov 20:40; Fri 24 Nov 18:15
La Ronde
Tue 14 Nov 20:45; Sun 19 Nov 12:00; Thu 30 Nov 18:20

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Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound and the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
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