Desire Designed To Happen In “Phantom Thread”

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“Phantom Thread” is about him. But it’s also about her.

UnknownaDuring the scene in Paul Thomas Anderson’s film where fastidious high fashion dressmaker Daniel Day-Lewis and his muse played by German actress Vicky Kreips first meet, I thought: He’s dressing her with his eyes. .

He dresses 1950s royalty and debutantes and becomes obsessed with designing for her form. Dismissive and covetous, he has a need for her, just not her presence.

And this gives her emotional leverage.

Somewhere between her slurping tea and crunching toast – their sounds amusingly heightened –  and his mercurial outbursts at his loss of privacy, they find a weird middle ground and become collaborators out of mutual self interest.

Gary Goldman’s Golden Globe and Critics Choice awards for Churchill in “Darkest Hour” may make him the Oscar frontrunner. But his is an impression of an archetype. Day Lewis’ interior performance has a brick and mortar foundation that reveals this man, brick by brick. If this is Day Lewis’ last film, he leaves behind an acting lesson in the art of subtle persuasion writ large.

The main characters are almost always in tight close up and the feeling is one of complicity. Kreips is a silent watcher, whose lightly Teutonic inflection brings an otherness to the role. She is acquiescent but tart a combination that makes her harder to dispose of than the women who preceded her.

“I like her,” says his formidable sister / business manager, played by a hard as granite Lesley Manville.

Anderson, who directed a fierce Day Lewis to an Oscar in “There Will Be Blood” here creates an “In The Mood For Love” by Wong Kar Wai cosplay, in which the desire was designed to happen.

Opens Jan. 19 At the Oriental Theater

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