It’s become clear that this stage of Paul Thomas Anderson’s career is the ‘gotta rewatch’ phase. I was underwhelmed by The Master until a second viewing cemented it as a masterpiece, while it took two goes to recognise the crazy-eyed madness of Inherent Vice.
So, too, with Phantom Thread, which only unveils its true nature in its final few minutes. A story that seemed to a conventional, even classical tale – a tale of master and muse, of solipsistic masculinity, of toxic relationships – unravelled into a far less familiar story. Yes, famed fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) might wield his social status and wealth to cow new lover Alma (Vicky Krieps), but the complications revealed in the film’s final act twist their relationship into a tangle that can only be unpicked upon rewatch.
That leaves me at a bit of quandary when it comes to reviewing the damn film. I can certainly recognise the talent on display – the exceptional performances of Krieps, Day-Lewis and Lesley Manville (as Reynolds’ archly-superior sister), or PTA’s entrancing, softly-lit cinematography. (I am in the very small minority of finding Greenwood’s score ineffective, even schmaltzy at times.) But to truly evaluate it, I need another shot.