Phantom Thread (US, 2017)

Please let it end

I’m happy to admit I don’t get P.T. Anderson: Phantom Thread is meritorious tripe . I think it may be the third shot of the film when the klaxon sounded that I may be wasting two hours of my life: the ever-intrusive music swells as if for a revelation, the camera pans up to show a spiral staircase where the women workers of the fashion house ascend… That’s it. I had similar problems with There Will Be Blood; by the time I worked out what the film was trying to say I didn’t care and wasn’t interested in what it was saying anyway. In fact what I said about Anderson’s The Master is relevant to Phantom Thread:

‘What is the point of The Master? Its narrative is suitably elliptical for a ‘arty’ house film; it lacks the clear drive that’s bespoke Hollywood. It features lauded performances of the sort that Oscar voters like. It’s beautifully  shot and superbly set designed with some striking  compositions …  The music, both ‘found’ and scored (by Jonny Greenwood) is terrific… What’s the film’s point?’

I only went to see Phantom Thread for Daniel Day Lewis but when his character sees the next ‘love of his life’, Alma, and she seems to fall for a man twice her age immediately my doubts about the film were doubled. Anderson is a tasteful old-fashioned filmmaker but such patriarchal pap doesn’t stand watching in, what I hope is, our #MeToo era. It’s not simply that Lewis’ character is abusive, but the idea that young women readily desire old men is long past its sell-by date.

The milieux  of ‘high fashion’ was never one that was going to interest me so I was prejudiced against the film which is beautifully shot by Anderson himself. By the end (halfway actually) I was watching in a detached way that is rarely useful in film watching and so could observe how Anderson used close-ups, and more swelling music, to nail a devastating point about Lewis’ character. BUT IT WASN’T INTERESTING! I’ll shut up now…

Except I’m not sure why the music was so high in the mix. I loved Jonny Greenwood’s score for The Master and his old fashioned scoring for Phantom Thread is in keeping with Anderson’s aesthetic but it sometimes seemed to flood the mise en scene; this Pitchfork review is enlightening.



4 Responses

  1. […] Phantom Thread (US, 2017) […]

  2. […] Phantom Thread (US, 2017) […]

  3. […] it’s a nice change from the sinking heart that has accompanied early scenes in films such as Phantom Thread where the film’s dead for me virtually before it starts. Kore-eda adapted this tale […]

  4. […] cinema-going this year as it had been on many ‘best of’ lists. Then again, so was Phantom Thread. It irritates me when people declare a film to be ‘rubbish’ as if their view trumps all […]

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