Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread ★★★★


1) Paul Thomas Anderson's debut, Hard Eight, was a small but effective neo-noir crime story.
2) His follow up, Boogie Nights, was a lengthy fictional porno bio drama set in the 1970s. A bold choice.
3) Next, Magnolia, was even bolder. A three-hour ensemble hyperlink drama with multiple characters with their own separate arc that all tie together as one.
4) Punch-Drunk Love, my personal favorite, starred Adam Sandler in an art-house, borderline experimental, romantic comedy.
5) There Will Be Blood, PTA's fifth and most acclaimed flick, was an adaptation - an epic dramatic tale taken place during SoCal's oil boom.
6) The Master, PTA at his best in my opinion, was a character study if we've ever seen one. Set just after the end of WWII, it was a psychological drama about a cult leader who finds a potential protege in a PTSD-struck sex-obsessed alcoholic.
7) Then came another adaptation, the first adaptation of post-modern novelist Thomas Pynchon - Inherent Vice, a neo-noir stoner comedy crime drama taking place right after the height of the 1960s.

In retrospect, the premise and subject of Paul Thomas Anderson's eighth and latest feature, Phantom Thread, shouldn't have been so surprising. He's made films set during 1890s//1900s, the 1940s, the 1970s, and modern day. It's no surprise he'd make one set in the 1950s. However, I think I speak for everyone when we saw the rating for Phantom Thread.

"Rated R for Language"

Wait, what? No drug use? No violence? No sexual content at all? Not even in its dialogue?

1) Strong language, some violence, and sexuality.
2) Strong sex scenes with explicit dialogue, nudity, drug use, language, and violence.
3) Pervasive language, drug use, sexual content, and some violence.
4) Strong language including a scene of sexual dialogue.
5) Some violence.
6) Sexual content, graphic nudity, and language.
7) Drug use throughout, sexual content, graphic nudity, language, and some violence.
8) Just language?

I think, initially, we all at least wanted some PTA violence.



But as it turns out, after having seen the acclaim from critics and PTA fans and Letterboxd users alike, and after having seen it myself, I guess we really don't care if PTA chooses not to include crime//violence in his flicks. We now know, as PTA himself has probably learned, he can make a straight-up drama, and an oddly romantic one too, if he wanted. And he has. He's not a filmmaker that's reliant on crime, drugs, sex, and violence. Give the man a sheet of paper and a camera (he shot this himself, btw), tell him no blood or boobs or bullets, and it's still excellent.

The trailer led me to believe that the film was indeed about a 1950s London dressmaker, of course, but specifically that it'd be about him sabotaging his own relationship with this new gal because he didn't believe he deserved love. When, in fact, the first half is about this man falling in love with this new gal and being challenged by her and the second half is how they can make the relationship work.

It's a deep character study and a deep examination of the importance of understanding yourself, your lover, and your relationship with your lover. Doing whatever it takes to have and maintain that love instead of checking out and giving up and walking away as soon as your partner//relationship gets difficult. Now, obviously, Reynolds and Alma may take it a bit too far, almost to a twisted extent, but the fact that it's completely understood among the two of them and consensual, it actually becomes kinda really fckn sweet.

Phantom Thread is far from flawless, but in a time where everyone expects everything to be easy and perfect and focused solely around their needs and wants, it's really encouraging and uplifting - especially coming from Paul Thomas Anderson. A part of it almost feels autobiographical, incredibly personal. I don't know why he made this film, whether it was just to make something so private or just to prove he doesn't need crime and stuff to make a solid flick, or to see if he can not be snubbed at the Oscars (lol good luck bub) or to see if he could make a film that feels transported from the '60s or '70s, whatever the reason is, he succeeds.

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