By Carl Wyant.
THERE WILL BE FUNGI
Nothing much happens, but there’s so much to observe, to absorb, that these two hours plus pass effortlessly, engrossingly.
The timing of ‘Phantom Thread’ seems much like the process of producing a fine garment really, something that cannot, will not be rushed, and as an audience, we’re privileged to watch the intricate details of the design for a rare relationship develop and unfold, in beautiful settings and bathed in soft light.
All partnerships progress in waves, an ebb and flow of control and release, at least those that last, and the degrees of severity in these waves are increased when one or more of the participants, the lovers are of an ‘artistic temperament’.
Refined, obsessive behavior can have no better interpreter in a film than Daniel Day-Lewis, and so it goes that his character, the master dressmaker is as demanding, fastidious, and dictatorial in his small, immaculate fiefdom as one can imagine.
His spinster sister Cyril, played with steel and restraint by Leslie Manville, stands in as his social secretary, managing director, and enforcement muscle for the house of Woodcock.
It’s ironic then that Woodcock’s perfect match should come tripping into frame as an Eliza Doolittle to his Henry Higgins.
With Paul Thomas Anderson’s script, as with Shaw’s play, the tables are turned, however, and the servant becomes the master, albeit with a copy of The Poisoner’s Handbook to aid her progress . . . better living through chemistry as it turns out, for some forces of personality need a bit of suffering to help them see the light.
Mirroring the narrative, the casting turns out to be an unexpected revelation as well, for it’s relative newcomer Vicky Krieps and her Alma who takes the gravitational force of Day-Lewis’ Reynolds by the hand and under her control with charm, and a bit of magic from the forest.
Uncredited, but nonetheless gorgeous and rich and atmospheric is the cinematography of the writer-director Anderson. He makes each scene, each setting feel intimate and familiar, and by the story’s end we feel as if we could map the city home and studio, the country retreat with ease.
If this is to be Day-Lewis’ swan song, as he’s announced, there can be no finer character study than what he’s given us here, and no more nuanced arc to trace. The subtlety of his anxiety over sounds, his control over time are intricate but effortlessly still . . . craft at it’s highest level, completely transparent.
Perhaps in the end, it can all be said to be much ado about mushrooms, but we should all be so delighted to take our pleasure with a dose of poison.