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Phantom Thread


Year: 2017 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson 
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville  
An image from Phantom Thread

There is a reason that the staple moment of romcoms has been given its own word–the ‘meet-cute’, where our inevitable pairing first bump into each other, without realising their own feelings towards each other. Fewer films go the distance with these relationships; it’s all good meeting cute and finding ‘the one’ but how do we work with each other and compromise when building a relationship? It is this process that Phantom Thread - perhaps not a genre film, but it is certainly both romantic and comedic - gradually reveals to be its major interest. The fabulously-named Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is an established dress designer, working magic with his group of seamstresses out of a London townhouse. Precise and strict in his work, Reynolds’ chaste world is belied by his carnal appetites: fast cars and huge breakfasts, as well as a series of female muses who eventually tire of his utter self-absorption. However, upon meeting Alma (Vicky Krieps), his routine is disturbed. The film tracks their relationship as it grows, and as both Alma and Reynolds both find ways to quell the other’s power.

Arguably I can’t be objective. This film has followed me over the years: released when I was just getting into film, it obsessed me in the cinema; I wrote an essay on it as part of my university application; and I have returned to its folds ever since when I need a boost. But through all of this it remains perfect. Paul Thomas Anderson has made many great films and this one best shows off his mastery of tone - superbly witty lines keep coming, even as the Hitchcockian power play keeps us on our toes. Plus, in the cinema, it’s a treat with a stridently strange orchestral score and a sensuous atmosphere that becomes almost narcotic (especially on 70mm). Frankly, nothing better has been made in 30 years–and seeing as Day-Lewis teased his retirement after making this, it could be his last appearance on our screen. Don’t miss out!

Max King

Shortly before the release of Phantom Thread, actor Daniel Day Lewis announced that it would be the last performance of his career. Upon seeing the film, one can understand why – with his lead role as the haunted artist, obsessive perfectionist dress designer Reynolds Woodcock, Lewis delivers the performance of a lifetime, ending his career on an undisputable bang, in one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s most spectacular directorial accomplishments.

The film follows the turbulent relationship between Reynolds and Alma (Vicky Krieps, who, unlike Lewis, did not quite receive the recognition she deserved for her performance), a waiter-turned-muse, whose veiled strength of will and unexpectedly tenacious self-identity get in the way of Reynolds attempts to fashion her according to his own vision. The film, then, delves into the continuous, devious negotiation of the power dynamics within Woodcock’s household, with his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), also participating in the game for control. Spatial and visual imagery pervade every scene, with Mark Bridges’ dresses becoming much more than simple pieces of clothing, but inviolable symbols of worth, virtue, verging on divinity. Every movement is accompanied by Johnny Greenwood’s magnificent score, which directs our attention, floods every sequence, and never allows the audience to forget its presence. Phantom Thread is a visual treat. Elegant and delicate, yet simultaneously twisted, and dark; if one lesson could be taken from this film (not about love, or relationships, or the fashion industry) is that the Devil is, truly, in every carefully devised detail. With a witty and intelligent script, and Anderson’s scrupulous and masterful hand, Phantom Thread is but a modern cinematic triumph.

Marta Meazza

“You look beautiful. Really, very beautiful. You’re making me extremely hungry.”

A wolf in Grandmother’s dressing gown, an engorged beast bursting from an exquisitely tailored dress; Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1950s period romance is as atypical and transgressive as any of his other films, despite the cloying English setting.

In a gorgeous performance (supposedly his swan-song), Daniel Day-Lewis is Reynolds Woodcock, haute couture designer whose style is inexorably heading out of fashion. The ripples of control throughout his company are dominated by two women: Cyril (Lesley Manville), his calmly domineering sister, and the looming spectre of his mother. Meanwhile, his latest in a string of model-muses is Alma (Vicky Krieps), a waitress in a rural tea-room—she awakens his creativity, and finds in Reynolds a subject for her own strange urges.

Together, an odd-couple romance seems to develop, a story of compromise with swooning emotions that take over the admittedly sinister premise. Whether a “horror [film] of emotional abuse”, as one critic argues, or just the weirdest love story in years, Phantom Thread comes adorned with a haunting and ever-present Jonny Greenwood score and images as sensual as chiffon. In tactile 35mm, this is one to sink into and cherish.

Max King

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Screenings of this film:

2017/2018 Summer Term (digital)
2017/2018 Summer Term (digital)
2021/2022 Autumn Term (35mm)
2023/2024 Autumn Term (70mm)
2023/2024 Autumn Term (70mm)