The Best Films of the Decade: #21. Phantom Thread (2017)

| December 21, 2019
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In just 11 Days the decade will come to a close and so for movie lovers like me it is an opportunity to look over the decade of movies that are left behind. Over the next few weeks I am going to countdown the best films of the past 10 years from #40 to #1. My choices are personal choices swayed by nothing but the love I have for this medium. These are all great movies. These films all achieved something great. All reached for something special. They are the best of the decade . . .

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I have a weird fascination with people who are obsessed with their craft.  What they do for a living equals how they live and how they live is equaled by what they do for a living.  That’s why Phantom Tread is so tantalizing.  It’s the story of a man who works with a needle and thread the way Rodin worked in clay or Van Gogh worked in oil paint.  She can shape a dress onto a woman’s form as if she were born wearing it.

The subject in this case is Reynolds Woodcock, one of London’s top designers, he is a genius at his craft but inside of him resides a man whose heart and soul are made of ice.  Phantom Thread is the bizarre story of how a woman named Alma figures out a way to pierce that heart of ice, but it doesn’t go exactly the way you might think.

I didn’t mention this before but this film was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson whose films enter into the theater of the bizarre in ways that you can’t even begin to describe.  This is his best film and it’s one that I have a great difficulty discussing because there’s a second half reveal that takes the movie down a dark and disturbing road that’s also kind of clever . . . in an Addams Family kind of way.

Anderson keeps us in the dark for most of the way.  We are never really sure when this film takes place.  It seems to be sometime in the 50s, after the war but before The Beatles.  The vagueness of that time frame gives the story room to breathe.  Setting the story in a solid time period would breed expectations, and this is a movie that is all about upending our expectations.  When we arrive at the end, we are left with questions, but we are never frustrated.  The idea of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object has never been so tantalizing, or more disturbing.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
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