A Touch of Class, by Tyler Smith
After months of mystery – including a few weeks in which it didn’t even have an official title – Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread finally has a trailer. While we knew a lot of broad facts about the film – it’s about fashion, it’s Daniel Day-Lewis’ final performance, etc. – the film itself, like so many other of Anderson’s works, remained shrouded in ambiguity.
Now that the trailer is available, we have a bit more information, but thankfully not much. Anderson’s films tend to thrive in vague complexity, both in the films themselves and their marketing. One thing that can definitely be said, though, is that his films tend to take on the personality of their protagonist, especially in the last ten years or so, and this film appears to be no exception.
There Will Be Blood was just as stark and unforgiving as Daniel Plainview. Taking after Joaquin Phoenix’s Freddie Quell, The Master was scattered and intense (with more than a few off-kilter laughs). And Inherent Vice took its emotional and thematic cues from Phoenix’s hopelessly lost (though not wholly incompetent) private detective, Doc Sportello.
Phantom Thread certainly looks to be continuing this trend, with Day-Lewis back again to portray Reynolds Woodcock, an upper class fashion designer who also appears to be something of a womanizer. His meticulousness and passion seem to inform the film itself, which appears to incorporate Anderson’s signature emotional tension while also embracing a more classical formula; a sort of Merchant Ivory film by way of John Cassavetes.
And, as always, it appears that Reynolds is a man controlled by his own demons, not unlike a Daniel Plainview or Freddie Quell. The difference is that his demons seem so much more respectable, which is likely why they are tolerated by others.
This is all guesswork, of course. It’s possible that the film will be just as taxing as Anderson’s others, complete with unrelenting pace and tone. Or perhaps he will push all that below the surface, underneath the polished sheen of respectability. Either way, with this intriguing trailer, Phantom Thread just rocketed to the top of every movie fan’s “Must See” list, if it wasn’t there already.