Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Anderson and Day-Lewis stitch with ‘Phantom Thread’

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | January 31st, 2018

A delectable and devilish exercise in exquisite restraint, “Phantom Thread” offers compelling evidence that Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis can do quiet and still as effectively as the thunder and lightning they made together in “There Will Be Blood.”

A supremely funny homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca,” the new movie Day-Lewis claims will be his last sets the table for yet another master class in screen performance. The leading man’s perfectly monikered 1950s haute couture designer Reynolds Woodcock (as telling a label as Quell, Plainview, or Diggler) sits at one point of a triangle that includes Lesley Manville as Woodcock’s icy and imperious sister Cyril and Vicky Krieps as Reynolds’ waitress/model/lover Alma.

Alma is the sleeper surprise of “Phantom Thread,” steadily asserting herself and imposing her will on the tight siblings who seem unable and/or unwilling to acknowledge as a human being the latest addition to their house. So much of the story is devoted to the passive-aggressive ways in which Reynolds and Cyril stifle Alma that the latter’s process of awakening shocks and delights with each new revelation. Turns out she’s as good with wild-picked fungi as Katherine Lester in William Oldroyd’s brilliant “Lady Macbeth.” The way to Reynolds’ heart -- if in fact he possesses one -- is most certainly through his stomach.

Anderson’s liberal use of the F-word is but one indicator of the carefully tailored comedic sensibilities of the filmmaker. Reynolds is practiced and quick with the mocking insult and the withering put-down. But the more he ridicules Alma, the more he reveals his own vulnerabilities.

Vexed at Alma’s intrusion while he works, Reynolds sends her out, snapping, “The tea is leaving, but the interruption is staying right here with me.” As Anthony Lane and others have noted, food, especially breakfast, is rarely out of sight or out of mind. An unwelcome surprise dinner prepared by Alma brings out the most patronizing snot in Reynolds: “I’m admiring my own gallantry for eating it the way you prepared it.”

Anderson has made another great film, and many of its thrills turn out to be wonderfully perverse, even kinky. Especially that ending. And from start to finish, the very presence of Day-Lewis works as a beautiful feint; Woodcock expects to be the center of attention at all times, just as his reputation and station would insist.

It follows that going in, audiences would assume that “Phantom Thread” belongs to its biggest star. Anderson and company have other things in mind, however, and the ways in which Reynolds and Alma push and pull together and apart (oh, that New Year’s Eve sequence!) will spark with familiarity to many couples.

“Phantom Thread” is dedicated to Jonathan Demme, and one imagines the filmmaker would have loved it. The movie presents a concrete world that complements the deceptively straightforward story events as they unfold. And yet, Anderson adds so much to the margins, the multiple themes and rich subtext will bring back admirers for second and third servings.

“Phantom Thread” wonders about the boundaries of vocation and avocation, the self-doubt that panics the artist who -- no matter the level of talent -- must sing for supper, and the thin line that separates love and contempt.  

Recently in:

FARGO – The National Weather Service has predicted widespread flooding from the Great Lakes to Devils Lake to the Red River of the North River Basin, saying the risk is elevated because of packed snow, deep frost, and…

By Gabrielle Herschgabbyhersch@gmail.com“North Dakota (and Minnesota) nice” is an attitude, a stereotype, and a way of life that has permeated our region, as well as perceptions of the Midwest, since as long as people have been…

March 19-23Fargo Theatre, 314 N Broadway, FargoThe Fargo Theatre will be opening daily at 9am during the Fargo Film Festival and will be screening 90+ submissions! Add director Q&As, 2 minute movie contest and extra special guests.…

It is possible, even ethical, to stand behind Israel and criticize the nation at the same time. No country, no man or woman, is without fault. While we at the High Plains Reader believe the U.S. House of Representatives’…

The Battle Between Extreme Capitalism And Democratic SocialismAfter Vice-President Mike Pence representing racial and extreme capitalism ended his scathing rant about democratic socialism at the Conservative Political Action…

The eighth week of this year’s HPR Cocktail Showdown was another tripleheader for our panel of judges. On this particular week, we found ourselves focused on a trio of downtown dining and entertainment establishments to visit…

In rural Minnesota, outside of Park Rapids, Amy Thielen was attempting to light her wood-fired oven. It is in her brand-new kitchen that she hopes to teach cooking classes out of, which is a far cry from what it was when she and…

The Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra has had its fair share of guest performances headlining its concerts over the years. They all have impressive resumes, their fair share of awards, and worldwide recognition. However, bringing…

With the 19th annual Fargo Film Festival underway this week, film lovers and filmmakers are flocking to the Fargo Theatre to catch screenings. One local filmmaker, Steven Warkel, got to see the short film that he wrote and…

Though Harvey North Dakota based photographer Lew Ableidinger has switched from film photography to digital photography and back he couldn’t avoid the analog.“I returned to film because I wanted to start shooting large format,…

To many people unfamiliar with the wide range of the musical genre, the word ‘opera’ conjures up stereotypical images of people in period costumes and large women in Viking garb singing in foreign languages. The truth, however,…

Stand-up comedy is traditionally a one-way exchange. Outside of the odd question addressed to a random audience member, the limit of the spectators’ contribution to the conversation is their laughter at the comedy stylings being…

By Gabrielle Herschgabbyhersch@gmail.comThink & Drink is coming to Fargo! Organized by Humanities North Dakota, Think & Drink is a happy hour series that hosts a facilitated public conversation about big issues and ideas. Lead by a…

I’m a big man, I’m tall and powerful, but this also causes some issues in the body department. I suffer from acute scoliosis in my lower back, and pain radiates from this area on a daily basis. I have only ever had one massage…

by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

I’ve got a problem. I need to write a column that is going to be kind of critical of three people I like, and I’m trying to figure out how to do it without making them all angry at me. Their names are Sara, Doug and Marvin.…