December 15, 2017 by Chris Kilkus
Bridget Foley’s Diary: Behind the ‘Thread’
Contrary to early-fashion industry scuttlebutt, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” is not about Charles James. Nor is it about fashion, per se. Rather, “Phantom Thread” is about creative angst as a cover for personal unpleasantness. Protagonist Reynolds Woodcock is a genius in his own mind, despite little scripted indication of where exactly he fits in his industry’s hierarchy. Self-entitled to treat people badly — especially those women deemed disposable as their inspiration quotients wane — he believes that the demands of his craft justify, and even require, his arrogance and disdain. At least until he meets his match in Vicky Krieps’ determined Alma.
That craft, Fifties British couture, creates the aura for “Phantom Thread’s” strange exoticism within which familiarity and wonder simultaneously antagonize and coalesce. Anderson’s own uncredited cinematography beautifully depicts that world, realized in large part via the work of Mark Bridges. The Oscar-winning costume designer for “The Artist” and frequent Anderson collaborator created the overall aesthetic and individual fashion looks of the House of Woodcock, seat of power of Daniel Day-Lewis’ couturier and his behind-the-scenes sister Cyril, played by Lesley Manville in an austere, iron-maiden turn à la “Rebecca’s” Mrs. Danvers. Only Cyril’s not evil, just a tad creepy