Deep Kiss, you are my Alma.
Jude Thaddeus L. Bautista
Reynolds (Daniel Day Lewis): Why do I feel as if I’ve been looking for you for a very long time? Alma (Vicky Krieps): And now you’ve found me.
CUT TO an interview Alma (Vicky Krieps): I never really liked myself. I thought my shoulders were too wide, my neck was skinny like a bird and I had no breasts. I thought my hips were larger than needed, my arms strong. But in his work I become perfect and I feel just right. Maybe that’s how all women feel in his clothes.
PHANTOM THREAD was able to fool me more than once. As I started watching I had the distinct impression, it was a biopic of some sort, a docudrama on a real life legendary designer from the 1950s whose clients include royalty and Hollywood stars. After some cursory research, it was astonishing that it was all a work of fiction from the fertile mind of writer director Paul Thomas Anderson. It truly is from Anderson’s seed of genius that the film has sprung forth and inspired others. The recent awards season bears this out.
PHANTOM THREAD won an Oscar for Best Costume Design (Mark Bridges) and Nominated in 6 Oscar categories: Best Actor (Daniel Day Lewis), Best Supporting Actress (Lesley Manville), Best Original Score (Johnny Greenwood), Best Direction (Paul Thomas Anderson) and Best Picture.
Both the Golden Globes and BAFTA also nominated Lewis for Best Actor. If it weren’t for Gary Oldman’s masterful performance in THE DARKEST HOUR, Lewis may have earned a fourth Oscar for this film.
BAFTA also awarded Mark Bridges Best Costume. Critic’s Associations and technical guilds in the United States and U.K. have either nominated or given awards to PHANTOM THREAD. The Boston Society of Film Critics for example has given it the Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Score.
Paul Thomas Anderson – PTA
Not only is Paul Thomas Anderson (PTA for short) credited as Writer, Director, he’s also Director of Photography / Cinematographer and Producer. On the youtube video of test shots he talks about the classic lenses from the era that he wanted to use to recreate that 50s look. Among them are classic lenses 85mm Jena 2.8, 55mm Nikon 2.8 before finally settling on the 50mm Jena 2.8 from Zeiss.
He was also very particular about the film stock they used and tested quite a few along with different lenses to get the exact look and feel they wanted. I wondered if it was possible to shoot it digitally and recreate the look he desired in post, as a more cost effective solution. But he may have wanted ‘the look’ in camera as they say. And it is difficult to question success.
He did however admit his reliance on his cameramen and gaffers because of his lack of technical knowledge. Hence, Colin Anderson was nominated for the Camera Operator of the Year Award from the Society of Camera Operators.
PTA was already critically acclaimed for BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997), PUNCH DRUNK LOVE- with Adam Sandler (2002) and INHERENT VICE (2014). But it was his work THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007) that gave him the most Oscar nominations and a Best Actor win for Daniel.
Maya Rudolph & Other Inspirations
Anderson has a long time relationship with SNL legend Maya Rudolph, going 17 years with four kids. One of the tender moments when Paul had flu and Maya was nursing him back to health. She gave him a facial expression that made him realize that she ‘had not looked at him with such tenderness and love in a long time’.
Another flash of inspiration is from friend and musical director Jonny Greenwood who complained of how long he took to get dressed: ‘You’re like Beau Brummel!’ Brummel was a fashion icon in the 19th century, ‘(who) claimed that he took five hours a day to dress and recommended that boots be polished with champagne. This preoccupation with dress, coupled with a nonchalant display of wit, was referred to as dandyism.’ [From https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Beau_Brummell] Cristobal Balenciaga and his ‘monastic life’ was also an inspiration for the main character.
Prior to PTA’s relationship with Rudolph, his previous long-term lover was Fiona Apple. He continues to direct music videos for Fiona and RADIOHEAD, of which Johnny Greenwood is a member.
Anderson was able to create a character that was very much believable and at the same time delve into that personal fantasy or make believe, that makes a person a central figure of a story. So he seemed like a real person, in this magnificently crafted film. The central character is himself a brilliant mind with a host of quirks that no writer or director could imagine. For example he’s rail thin but has a voracious appetite. And has extremely specific preferences or requirements to how his food is prepared.
Daniel Day Lewis was able to shape the role in more ways than just his performance. PTA credits him as co writer. The first name Reynolds is from the youth of Day-Lewis. Reynolds Stone is a renowned wood engraver in the U.K. who influenced him. “Reynolds Stone was quite an important figure in the life of my family. He was probably the greatest living wood engraver in this country, in his lifetime. We spent some Christmases in his house in Dorset as a child. The Stone family were figures in our lives.” The last name Woodcock arose from Daniel’s joke to Anderson who broke down laughing. That assured the fact it was going to be used. From: youtube vid: Cast Q & A.
Research and Casting
Day Lewis again tirelessly researched his role. He consulted with the curator of fashion and textiles at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and apprenticed under Marc Happel, head of the costume department at the New York City Ballet.
The Victoria and Albert Museum’s Historic Clothing Archive also yielded some fortunate encounters. When Anderson and Costume Designer Mark Bridges were there they bumped into retired dressmakers Joan Brown and Sue Clark. They were given the roles of Biddy and Nana respectively. The seamstresses roles were also given to ‘Amber Brabant and Geneva Corlett are professional film costumers. Georgia Kemball is a textile designer’. From: [official imdb page]
PHANTOM THREAD is the film that people will look back on as the breakthrough role for Vicky Krieps (Alma). This is when the world was introduced to the talent and magnetism of a young actress from Luxembourg. She has the perfect cover of innocence and weakness when she is anything but. Underneath that childlike smile hides a mentally strong and willful woman who changes Reynolds life.
Before meeting Alma, Reynolds would easily charm young ladies; sweep them off their feet. But it was only a question of when he’d tire of and eventually replace them. She’s a combination of tenderness and strength that Reynolds never encountered before.
Krieps’ natural Luxembourg accent was perfect for the role, “She was always an immigrant. Let her accent do the work. You just need to get the sense she was from somewhere different, preferably Eastern Europe,” said Anderson.
She has been cast in THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB with Sylvia Hoeks the latest sequel from THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO franchise. Vicky is also currently shooting LYREBIRD a drama with Guy Pearce.
Lesley Manville on the other hand has been around the block: MALEFICENT (2014) ANOTHER YEAR (2010). Nominated as Best Supporting actress at the Oscars and BAFTA. But also won the trophy from AARP, London Critic’s Circle Film Awards and International Cinephile Society Awards: PHANTOM THREAD (2017 Best Supporting Actress) and ANOTHER YEAR (2011 Best Actress).
She won the 2014 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress for her performance as Helene Alving in Richard Eyre’s revival of GHOSTS. She was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her services to Drama.
Manville has recently been cast in DALI LAND, NORMAL PEOPLE and the much-anticipated sequel MALEFICENT 2 with Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Michelle Pfeiffer and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
In an interview with People TV, Lesley had a great insight about this film, “Even if I hadn’t been cast its up there in one of my favorite films of all time. Its really wonderful the way it puts the microscope in what we want to sort out; how to be yourself, how to love, how to be a full and proper person, for some of us in the creative industry, how to marry that with creativity.” Gary Oldman, this year’s Best Actor winner, is incidentally Manville’s ex-husband and had her only child with him: Alfie Oldman. She now has 2 grandchildren Matilda and Ozzy.
Lesley plays Reynolds’ ever-present sibling Cyril. She is the agent / manager / second in command in the House of Woodcock. He affectionately calls her ‘My Old So and So’. Usually she knows what he needs and wants before he asks for it. In front of clients, she’d never question him. But in private she would never take sh** from him. It’s true as stated in other reviews, while Reynolds is the creative genius it’s these two women who truly rules his life.
Lesley Manville clip
As brilliant as Anderson is, he was very modest in acknowledging his influences in terms of movies, “Stolen, that would be the word for it. We watched PASSIONATE FRIENDS (1949) six times; we keep coming back to it over and over again. I don’t know why no one’s talking about it. The other one is I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING (1945) a great Powell – Pressburger movie. A lot of the Powell Pressburger movies including the RED SHOES. BRIEF ENCOUNTER, I watched again as a refresher. REBECCA, VERTIGO and SUSPICION with John Fontaine.“
Because of the era, the film has been compared to Alfred Hitchcock who directed VERTIGO. The story / romance also parallels with PASSIONATE FRIENDS, I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING even with the setting (U.K.). Writing and directing duo Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger used color and music effectively to tell their stories. THE RED SHOES also from Powell Pressburger was a required viewing for DLSU Communication Arts majors (a long while ago) under Dr. Mike Rapatan.
On PHANTOM THREAD’s last shooting day April 26, 2017, was the same date that director Jonathan Demme (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, PHILADELPHIA) passed away. Anderson considers Demme a friend and mentor and has dedicated the film to him.
What is the Phantom Thread?
This was one of the moments in the film that convinced me that Reynolds was a real person, made him more human. He creates secret pockets in the linings of his jacket, or clothes in general that contain mementos, that are important to him. He keeps a lock of his mother’s hair in one because she taught him to sew and make dresses – his craft. Sometimes it’s a label with the name of a loved one. Only he knows its there. That’s how he literally keeps the people who matter close to his heart.
Alma: Reynolds has made my dreams come true. And I have given him what he desires most in return.
Dr. Robert Hardy (Brian Gleeson): And what’s that?
Alma: Every piece of me.