Rated R

115 Minutes

Released December 25

Some of the most interesting elements behind the rather cryptic film Phantom Thread are the backstories of the people who created the film. Director/Writer Paul Thomas Anderson seems to create a different style of film with each project he takes on. He wrote and directed Boogie Nights in 1997, which echoes the style of the porn films made in the San Fernando Valley. He wrote and directed the esoteric, almost psychedelic Punch-Drunk Love in 2002 and the violent portrait of a man involved the evil and greed of the California oil business in the early 20th Century, There Will Be Blood, in 2007. Anderson fashioned Phantom Thread in the style of a European psychological mystery, similar to the 1940 classic Rebecca, These stories move slowly with meticulous examination of the machinations and traits of the characters involved, the impetus provided by revelations of secretive plots.

Anderson is a Californian from the San Fernando Valley. His adoption of this style comes from his thorough knowledge of film history. This film is definitely European in it’s approach and set in 1950’s London and the English countryside. This is Anderson’s first narrative film set outside California – it was shot in London and North Yorkshire. The scenes in the London townhouse were shot under claustrophobic circumstances. Fitting all the film equipment into these claustrophobic spaces made Day-Lewis feel as if “we were living on top of each other.” However he also noted that the sense of claustrophobia during production may have helped to generate the needed dramatic tension.

Daniel Day-Lewis inhabits fictitious couturier, “Reynolds Woodcock,” a vastly different character from the oilman he played in There Will Be Blood…although on second thought, perhaps not quite so different. To wrap his mind around his character, Day-Lewis immersed himself in the story of Basque fashion designer Cristobal Balenciaga, on whom Woodcock is loosely based. Both embody the extreme and intense focus and Spartan lifestyle. In this film, Woodcock’s mother teaches him the art of sewing. So did Balenciaga’s mother in real life. Both actually constructed the fashions they designed, as opposed to simply sketching them, and their were consumed by the art and business of fashion.

Vicky Krieps, who stars opposite Day-Lewis, is from Luxembourg City and has been acting in small European film and TV projects for nine years. She skillfully plays “Alma,” Woodcock’s muse. Lesly Manville also does a fine job as Woodcock’s sister and protector, visibly the grounded one if the family.

The story, by Anderson in collaboration with Day-Lewis, is an intimate study of a complex personality, with an unexpected twist at the end. It’s not an exciting or entertaining film. However it opens a window on what drives an artist’s will to create, and of the draw of the fashion industry. Daniel Day-Lewis has stated that he is retiring from acting after shooting Phantom Thread. Let’s hope there is a twist at the end of that story line as well.

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. For previously published reviews see