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“I cannot start my day with a confrontation. I simply have no time for confrontations”, Daniel Day-Lewis declares with measured indifference as Reynolds Woodcock, a London couturier in Paul Thomas Anderson’ s film, Phantom Thread. The statement is made in response to Woodcock‘s soon to be ex-lover who has made a futile attempt, over breakfast, to learn what she might do to regain his interest and affections.
It is the 1950’s and the rakishly handsome Woodcock is a talented genius who exercises total control over every aspect of his existence. With an insatiable interest in the female form, he charms women into his life, only to discard them when they no longer suit his fancy. Woodcock is ably assisted in both his business and his life, by his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), a stalwart supporter of all of his eccentricities. She enables his self-absorbed behavior, even when it borders on abject cruelty. The aforementioned breakfast companion is dismissed by Cyril with only a Woodcock designed dress to console her; cast aside before her mere presence might interfere with Woodcock’s creative process.
|Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day-Lewis|
Enter Alma (radiant newcomer, Vicky Krieps), a young waitress that Woodcock encounters at a nearby restaurant and is instantly taken with. The attraction is mutual and the two meet for dinner, eventually retiring to his home where he takes her measurements. When Cyril walks in on the blossoming relationship, she positions herself like an observer in the room, telling Alma that she has the type of body that Woodcock prefers. Clearly Cyril has witnessed this scenario before as part of her brother’s seductive process.
There is, however, something about Alma that differentiates her from the women who have come before her. As she swiftly becomes his muse and his lover, it soon becomes apparent that she is not the naive young woman that she first appeared to be. Alma is strong willed and opinionated, and her obsession with Woodcock and his work is coupled with a touch of insanity. As their twisted romance progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to ascertain just who is actually in control.
The costume designer, Mark Bridges, has worked with the director on several previous films. In creating the fictional House of Woodcock, he designed more than 50 garments, ranging from the dark, subdued wardrobe worn by Cyril, reflecting her effortless composure, to the opulent gowns that are featured as Woodcock’s creations. Bridges repeatedly uses color, fabric and silhouette to convey elements of the wearer’s character or a particular point in the story. Day-Lewis, who has said that Phantom Thread will be his final film, even became involved in creating one of the gowns for the movie, choosing a lilac color for a full-skirted gown, overlaid in lace.
– Rhonda Erb