Film Critic Matt Taylor is enamoured with Annihilation, the second directorial effort from Alex Garland, and Netflix's latest exclusiveWritten by Redbrick Film on 20th March 2018
Review: The Phantom Thread
Film Critic Luis Freijo finds himself sleep-walking through The Phantom Thread, supposedly the final performance of Daniel Day-Lewis
In 1988, Daniel Day-Lewis landed one of his first major roles with the film adaptation of Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Thirty years and three Oscars later, Day-Lewis has played what is (supposedly) his final performance in Phantom Thread, which could have been easily named The Unbearable Transcendence of Making Dresses. Because his Reynolds Woodcock, and other characters, spend an unreasonable percentage of the runtime dedicated to the elaboration of pieces of cloth; because, apparently, that activity is involved in a blaze of transcendence; and because, above all, the film is unbearable.
Do not get me wrong: it is not a terrible film. After all, Paul Thomas Anderson is directing and he proves, once again, that he is an exquisite narrator. The camera flows easily and elegantly during the movie, choosing wisely when to move between the workers that sew for Woodcock, the dresses or the parties, and when to stop to witness the usual exchanges between the designer and Alma (Vicky Krieps).
“Above all the film is unbearable.
Nevertheless, the great attractive of the film, a priori, was Daniel Day-Lewis, especially since he announced that he would retire after this film. Let's remember, for the record, that he did something similar in 1997 after The Boxer and moved to Florence to learn how to make shoes. Five years later, he came back as forceful as ever with Gangs of New York. Let's just hope the same now. In any case, there is little doubt that Day-Lewis is the best actor of the last three decades, and one of the very best that ever stood in front of a camera, and yet this doesn't appear as a memorable goodbye.
“Daniel Day-Lewis' Woodcock lacks the strength and the subtleties of several of his previous roles
What is the problem, then, if the film is well directed and performed with professionalism? The problem is that there does not seem to be any point at all. Is it a film about making dresses? Not quite interesting. Is it a film about a toxic relationship that turns into a ruthless fight for power? It is not well written, then. Scenes of confrontation and reconciliation, of Alma being charming and Woodcock being rude, repeat themselves all over the film. Only the two final sequences bear some interest, when their love turns out to be a sadomasochistic relationship in a psychological level. The result of all this is a tremendously boring film. It is not a matter of slowness. There Will Be Blood was slower and longer than Phantom Thread. Call Me by Your Name also takes its time this year, and it is by far the best film of 2017. It is a matter of slowness combined with emptiness and the depiction of a rich and elitist world that does not speak about anything rather than just a sick relationship. Daniel, it is not worth retiring over Phantom Thread.
Verdict: Although Phantom Thread is an elegantly and exquisitely made film, its formal beauty clashes with a transcendent emptiness. It is not slow, it is just boring. It is nothing close to viking funeral that the last performance by Daniel Day-Lewis should have been.