What an honour to be one of the privileged few to attend the UK Preview of The Phantom Thread at the Royal Festival Hall last week. To make the occasion even more special, we were treated to a live Q&A with the films director Paul Thomas Anderson and composer Jonny Greenwood beforehand, hosted by renowned critic Mark Kermode. The entire performance was accompanied by the London Contemporary Orchestra playing the soundtrack live, which made for a highly unusual but memorable evening.
This is purported to be Daniel Day-Lewis’ final movie role - and what a way to finish on a high. The film has received rave reviews from the critics and is nominated for no less than 6 Oscars, including one for Day-Lewis as Best Actor.
Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a celebrated couturier in 1950’s London who, like many creative geniuses, has exacting standards, and follows a strict routine that is upheld and protected by his matronly but devoted sister - played by Lesley Manville (who has also been Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actress). Reynolds meets Alma, played by newcomer Vicky Krieps in a cafe by the seaside on a rare day off. The couple are immediately attracted to each other and Alma becomes his creative muse, soon falling hopelessly in love with him. Reynolds, unnerved by the disruption of the peace and order in his carefully tailored life, is reticent in reciprocating, but unlike others before her Alma turns out to be far stronger than he thought.
The film is exquisite, from the opening bars of the Oscar-nominated score (so sweetly haunting it will stay with you for days), to every single frame which has been so carefully composed it is none less than a cinematic feast. We are taken from sweeping landscapes, to flamboyant parties, to intimate breakfast scenes where even the most mundane moments become a thing of beauty.
As you would expect, Day-Lewis is magnetic as the sensitive, fastidious genius devoted to the craft that sustains him as he painstakingly pours himself into each of his creations, whilst physically draining him as he is left afterwards exhausted, with nothing left to give. The script is wonderful, and Woodcock definitely has all the best lines - bringing humour to otherwise painful moments as Alma struggles to win his affection. Day-Lewis makes the audience fall in love with Woodcock too, despite being so ‘high-maintenance’.
Vicky Krieps’ performance more than stands up to Day-Lewis’ prowess, as the frustrated but quietly determined - and ultimately resourceful - lover, and the audience are kept guessing right until the final moments of the film which gives it a distinct Hitchcockian feel.
The film is pure, indulgent escapism - highly recommended!