Thursday, February 1, 2018

Phantom Thread (2017)

Though it was the Scorsese-like, visual gymnastics of Boogie Nights and Magnolia that caught the eye of the Film School Kids, we must remember that the principle influence on Paul Thomas Anderson’s debut film Sydney (aka Hard Eight) was Melvin and Howard. Instead of opening with a whole lot of whiz-bang, both films begin with protracted conversations between two characters. At his core, this is who Paul Thomas Anderson is as a filmmaker.

Of course he played around with all the fancy toys on his next couple of films (who wouldn’t?), but as early as Punch-Drunk Love you can sense a filmmaker casting aside all of the bravura in favor of a simpler, more character based cinema.

For all its fire and fury, There Will Be Blood is the story of three people in the desert. The Master is a love story between Freddie and Lancaster. Even with all the Pynchonian intrigue, Inherent Vice is really just the story of Doc, Bigfoot and Shasta Fey. Phantom Thread is Anderson’s minimalism taken to its logical end-point.

It’s not shot on antique, large-format cameras and most of it takes place in small rooms. It’s not about Capitalism or Religion or any other “important” issue. The only maximalist element in the whole thing is Johnny Greenwood’s wonderful score.

It’s taken him many years and films to get to this point, but Anderson has successfully pruned away that which is not essential, held on to a few handy tricks, and returned to where he started. But this is no ending. This is a new beginning. And I cannot wait to see what comes next.

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