Home / World News / “Phantom Thread” a sensuous story about the male gaze, and a muse who subverts it – The Denver Post

“Phantom Thread” a sensuous story about the male gaze, and a muse who subverts it – The Denver Post

By Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

Three and one-half stars. Rated R. 130 minutes.

Daniel Day-Lewis resembles an Easter Island sculpture crossed with a handsomely groomed Adonis in “Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s ode to extravagance, texture, tyrannical auteurism and its most ingenious subversions.

Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a soughtafter dress designer in 1950s London whose clientele — comprising mostly wealthy matrons — see Woodcock’s creations less as pretty dresses than a crucial part of their female armamentarium: “I feel like it will give me courage,” one of his customers says of an evening gown. To unleash and fuel his inspiration, Woodcock has amassed a collection of daily rites, habits and superstitions: a strict regimen of silence, meticulously prepared meals and hushed concentration that has made marriage an impossibility. He lives with his devoted sister and factotum, Cyril (Lesley Manville), and a series of women who tend to be quietly eased out when they demand too much time and attention or — heaven forfend! — dare to speak during Woodcock’s monastic creative routine.

The world of Reynolds Woodcock — its silky elegance, focused discipline and fetishistic attention to sartorial and ritualistic detail — is captured behind a scrim of nostalgia and romance by Anderson, who invites viewers to luxuriate in the creamy interiors of Woodcock’s townhouse and atelier, the dreamy mood heightened by Jonny Greenwood’s jazz-inflected musical score. Although Woodcock has disposed of his latest romantic liaison as “Phantom Thread” opens, his next conquest presents herself when he stops for a meal in the country and orders a ploughman’s breakfast from a bright-eyed waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps). By the time he’s completed his compulsively specific order, the mutual seduction is complete, and the stylish, enigmatic, ultimately perversely playful game is afoot.

What ensues is a delicious slice of teatime gothic reminiscent of “Rebecca” and “Suspicion,” wherein love and sexual attraction become vectors for mistrust, battles of wills and power dialectics of Hegelian proportions. Vicky may initially present herself as mere odalisque to be molded and shaped by the Great Man. But soon enough, she has invaded the sanctum sanctorum of Woodcock’s self-absorbed genius, engaging in the kind of subterfuges and small rebellions that are so often the only recourse of someone relegated to the role of muse, and little else.

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