Sometimes I think a movie defies categorization. Still, readers generally want to know the overall genre — whether a film is a romance, for example, or a horror flick.
So I think it’s fair to say, in this case, that “Phantom Thread,” which is among the nominees for Best Picture for the Academy Awards, is an “art film.” It’s not as accessible as other movies. And its slow-going pace might put some viewers to sleep.
For others, it will be an exquisite experience in character study, acting and atmosphere that only director Paul Thomas Anderson can create. He directed some of my favorite movies, including “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia” and “There Will be Blood,” which also starred Daniel Day-Lewis.
I’m adding “Phantom Thread” to that list now.
The film is set in the 1950s in upper-crust London, where dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) lives with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville.) His work is renowned and sought by royalty and socialites who come from all over the world to wear The House of Woodcock.
Woodcock is a bachelor who always has a woman around. That is, until the lady of the moment is dismissed by Cyril.
After the departure of his most recent interest, Woodcock finds himself smitten instantly with a waitress. The much younger Alma (Vicky Krieps, “The Colony”) becomes his muse, acting as a sort of mannequin for the couturier.
But the narcissistic Woodcock is not easy to live with. He is demanding, temperamental and sullen. And Alma decides that she will not put up with his moods.
This is one of the most beautiful movies of the year, or any other year. It takes its time. The texture of fabric, whether it’s the stuff of which exquisite dresses are made or the stuff of which relationships are made, is at its core.
You can almost feel the fabric as Woodcock and his staff measure, cut and sew. In the meantime, we watch the weave, if you will, of the unusual relationship between Woodcock and Alma. So much is said in a single sentence or two, and nothing speaks louder here than silence. The unforgettable score by Jonny Greenwood, who also was the composer for “There Will be Blood,” heightens the intensity of every scene.
The scenes involving the seamstresses include real seamstresses and costumers, so it’s no wonder that they feel so authentic.
For some, this will be a snoozer. For others, who will appreciate the way the characters unfold and their highly unusual relationships, it will be another incredible work from Anderson.