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Essman, E. (2020). Phantom Thread directed by Paul Thomas Anderson Annapurna Pictures and Focus Features: 2017, 130 min.. Fort Da, 26(1):80-86.

(2020). Fort Da, 26(1):80-86

Reviews: Film Review Essay

Phantom Thread directed by Paul Thomas Anderson Annapurna Pictures and Focus Features: 2017, 130 min.

Review by:
Eric Essman, M.A.

In Sickness and in Health

i Fabric

Walking in the Mayfair district of London some years ago, I stopped in front of a Savile Row menswear shop and was compelled to look up and look down. Opaque at street level, the shop's public area was partly visible through a wide window on the first floor above. Tailoring was done in a similarly exposed basement below. On view there, standing at a broad white table and in front of high shelves displaying bolts of material, a handsome middle-aged man laid out a piece of fabric and smoothed it in preparation for cutting. Perhaps he was wearing gloves. The whole scene resembled a surgical theater.

If, along with the delicate precision he brought to his trade, this anonymous tailor were endowed with design genius, he could have been couturier Reynolds Woodcock, the dominant and domineering central character in Phantom Thread, a film set in London in the early 1950s. Framing the narrative, Woodcock's wife Alma (Victoria Krieps) recalls the events of the film in a perversely idealized reminiscence by firelight, characterizing a love story in which repeated poisonings take place and the victim is a willing accomplice. Woodcock, played, or rather modeled by Daniel Day Lewis as if the role was a bespoke suit of his own creation, lives with his androgynously named sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), on whom he depends for everyday management of the household and business. Their mansion is literally and figuratively the House of Woodcock, where ladies of wealth, including royalty, come to be fitted with custom-designed and handmade dresses.

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