Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Phantom Thread

What better setting for the Pygmalion myth than the fashion industry? Phantom Thread, the latest movie by Paul Thomas Anderson, takes place in a fabulist version of London’s 50’s world of couture. However, the characters are gargoyles for whom the film’s gowns always seem to strain the flesh. Reynolds Woodcock, (Daniel Day-Lewis) the protagonist, is in love with perfection, not only in his work, but his life. In a sense he’s a misfit in a field which caters to society. Woodcock is more a solitary artist than a designer. However, he meets his match in Alma (Vicki Krieps), a young waitress he falls for. Each of Anderson’s protagonists is battling for the others soul; they're each other’s Galatea. The director’s larger than life figures, viewed as they are, in an intentionally distorted way in which all  their imperfections and foibles are put under the microscope, are almost reminiscent of the expressionistic style of Elia Kazan. There’s one particular scene which epitomizes the conflict. Alma sets out to cook Reynolds a dinner, but she cooks his asparagus with butter while he likes them with salt and oil. The asparagus themselves, surrreal in their incandescent greenness, become a kind of rebuke. It’s brilliant stuff. 

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