Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

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hearthesilence
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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#251 Post by hearthesilence » Sat Feb 17, 2018 1:15 am

Three if you're not saving one of those for me.

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#252 Post by hearthesilence » Sun Feb 18, 2018 7:13 pm

IndieWire interviewed some anonymous Academy voters to comment on different categories, and the costume designer they talked to wasn't crazy about the clothing design in Phantom Thread:
I understand why “Phantom Thread” is in, for God’s sake: It’s a movie about a fashion designer! But I thought the couturier collections were frumpy and unimaginative. And in some cases, downright unflattering and ugly (vis-a-vis the Snow White frock). If the house of Woodcock was meant to be like Balenciaga or Charles James, just look at the designs of those geniuses and you see how far short the designs in “Phantom Thread” fall. If Daniel Day-Lewis is meant to be a genius, the designer of choice for the wealthy and aristocratic, who clamber to wear his clothing, this clothing does not make the grade. The clothing outside the collection was fine.
There are certainly plenty of great films that have similar "shortcomings" that usually aren't recognizable to most audience members (see Truffaut's spot-on quote about Rear Window - something like "you're right, I don't know the Village, but I do know cinema and that's what it's about: cinema"). But it's still interesting for me to see such appraisals, and I'm not well-versed in fashion design (especially from a historical perspective) so I don't doubt that she's probably right about the clothes.

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#253 Post by Big Ben » Sun Feb 18, 2018 7:59 pm

That strikes me as fairly disingenuous. The obscene amount of garbage (In the case of the below picture somewhat literally.) put out in fashion shows is astounding. A costume designer should know better.

Image

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Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#254 Post by Werewolf by Night » Sun Feb 18, 2018 8:08 pm

I’ve been thinking a lot about this very issue. Woodcock may be a fashion genius, but his style is becoming passé and he is losing his aristocratic clientele, his house increasingly propped up by vulgar bourgeois clients like Barbara Rose. He’s not Balenciaga, he’s not Charles James. He’s a fussy, stodgy, lower-tier dressmaker to the elite along the lines of Norman Hartnell.

The issue of the “Snow White” dress is particularly telling. Countess Henrietta Harding has trusted Woodcock (for years, probably) to make her look beautiful, but witness how uncomfortable and out of place she looks in that dress as she enters the ball—it’s written all over her face. We later find out that she abandons Woodcock for another, more “chic” house. And all of her friends will surely soon follow her.

And some of the other clothes are stodgy, too. That dress that Alma hates the fabric of? She’s right about it. The fabric is too heavy-looking for a dress of that style of that time.

But I think this all makes Alma’s championing of Woodcock’s work even more endearing. He’s not a “great” couturier, but he’s great to her, and maybe he becomes better because of her.

This is all addressed by Mark Bridges in recent interviews, by the way.

All this said, there is one dress I have a problem with as a costume. It’s the one with the rare lace, one of the first dresses Woodcock makes for Alma, revealed in a gorgeous shot introducing the photo shoot scene. It’s beautiful from the front, but then you see it from the back (an image that’s become one of the more reproduced from the film) and the lace doesn’t go all the way around the bodice, the fat seams for the zipper look like a huge scar up Krieps’ back (which the tulle stole was probably made to cover up), and the skirt is horribly creased. It’s obvious the dress was made as a costume and probably not meant to have been seen from the back. But Anderson probably decided on set that he wanted a rear view and wasn’t too concerned with the details at that moment.

I’ll be surprised if Bridges wins the Oscar for this (expecting it to go to Luis Sequeira), but I think he knew exactly what he was doing with these designs.

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#255 Post by Clarence » Mon Feb 19, 2018 12:38 am

Werewolf by Night wrote:He’s not Balenciaga, he’s not Charles James. He’s a fussy, stodgy, lower-tier dressmaker to the elite along the lines of Norman Hartnell.
What an enlightening post! Knowing next to nothing about the world of couture, I hadn't considered that Woodcock would be seen as "lower-tier". I guess Balenciaga's name was thrown around in a lot of interviews for this film so I just assumed Woodcock was being presented as an artist of that caliber. Plus, the dresses all looked fabulous to my eye. Cannot wait to see this one again. I think I missed a lot of the finer details because I was just so overtaken by the powerful mood of this film.
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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#256 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Feb 19, 2018 4:04 am

Loving the most recent stuff in this thread.

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#257 Post by Lost Highway » Mon Feb 19, 2018 4:29 am

Big Ben wrote:That strikes me as fairly disingenuous. The obscene amount of garbage (In the case of the below picture somewhat literally.) put out in fashion shows is astounding. A costume designer should know better.

Image
For runway shows designers often resort to attention grabbing stunts to grab media coverage. The plastic bag isn’t the design, it’s the styling, the design is the gown she wears. Fashion design is a tough business and many acclaimed designers struggle financially. It takes a lot of up front investment to get a fashion business off the ground and even famous brands struggle or go under all the time. So anything it takes to get the attention of clients and investors and while tabloids and the public will make fun of those silly fashion people, the ones who matter know what to pay attention to.

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#258 Post by FrauBlucher » Mon Feb 19, 2018 7:08 am

Werewolf by Night wrote:I’ve been thinking a lot about this very issue. Woodcock may be a fashion genius, but his style is becoming passé and he is losing his aristocratic clientele, his house increasingly propped up by vulgar bourgeois clients like Barbara Rose. He’s not Balenciaga, he’s not Charles James. He’s a fussy, stodgy, lower-tier dressmaker to the elite along the lines of Norman Hartnell.

The issue of the “Snow White” dress is particularly telling. Countess Henrietta Harding has trusted Woodcock (for years, probably) to make her look beautiful, but witness how uncomfortable and out of place she looks in that dress as she enters the ball—it’s written all over her face. We later find out that she abandons Woodcock for another, more “chic” house. And all of her friends will surely soon follow her.

And some of the other clothes are stodgy, too. That dress that Alma hates the fabric of? She’s right about it. The fabric is too heavy-looking for a dress of that style of that time.
This is right on. Isn't this one of the points in the film. Woodcock has hard time adapting to anything new and different, certainly his fashion creations will also suffer from this fate as well. You get the idea that his "frumpy" and "stodgy" style was created by him when he was starting out in the fashion industry and it never changed all those years later.

This clearly suggests to me that the anonymous costume designer quoted up thread didn't get the film.

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Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#259 Post by Werewolf by Night » Mon Feb 19, 2018 2:01 pm

Clarence wrote:I guess Balenciaga's name was thrown around in a lot of interviews for this film so I just assumed Woodcock was being presented as an artist of that caliber.
I think Mary Blume’s recent Balenciaga biography provided a lot of background information for Anderson on how a couture house functions, and Charles James was probably an early inspiration for the story (he had his own failures and unwillingness to adapt to change), but it’s kind of unfortunate that the idea of them being 1:1 analogs for Woodcock stuck.

I forgot to mention that even Woodcock has his own doubts about his talent. The wedding dress for the Belgian princess is meticulously crafted, an objectively beautiful gown, but when he comes out to inspect it in his poisoned and not entirely lucid state, he admits to everyone that it’s just not very good. You have to wonder if in those weakened retreats to the country after his shows and major projects if he’s not riddled with self-doubt each time. And then Alma comes along to inspire him, to make him strong again. We don’t know, because we’re kept at arm’s length from Woodcock’s inner life.

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#260 Post by ianthemovie » Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:55 am

Werewolf by Night wrote:Countess Henrietta Harding has trusted Woodcock (for years, probably) to make her look beautiful, but witness how uncomfortable and out of place she looks in that dress as she enters the ball—it’s written all over her face.
That's interesting. I read it differently--that the Countess was nervous about attending the gala for some other personal reason that's never clarified (in the dialogue during her fitting she alludes to this event being momentous). I'd have to go back to study her face again as she's making her entrance, but I saw her as having been given confidence by Reynolds and the dress, as stiffly designed as it may be. For me, the scene established Reynolds' power as a designer and his ability to make nervous women feel confident and beautiful in his clothes. It seemed to set up the later scenes when Alma says the same thing (that she had always felt awkward, but Reynolds made her feel beautiful) and when Reynolds feels devastated by the realization that he can't make Barbara Rose feel beautiful in spite of all his efforts to do so.

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#261 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 2:38 am

I reject this whole idea that we’re meant to see Woodcock’s clothes as anything less than magnificent but past their prime with regard to how fashionable they are, but it’s still a very interesting perspective. I don’t think Anderson would bother with the gorgeous young princess or the girls telling Woodcock how much they love his clothes if he didn’t have some vitality within the fashion world in the narrative of the film. Yes, on the decline, but it’s rather a stretch to say that we’re supposed to see Woodcock as anything less than one of the best in his field. Just look at the magnificent group of women working for him, able to rescue a dress in the space of one night... are miracle workers like that going to work for some low level, lousy dressmaker? Also, regarding the back of that pink lace dress - that isn’t being photographed, except by Anderson - it isn’t meant to be a ready-to-wear piece.

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#262 Post by JamesF » Tue Feb 20, 2018 4:03 am

Werewolf by Night wrote:The issue of the “Snow White” dress is particularly telling. Countess Henrietta Harding has trusted Woodcock (for years, probably) to make her look beautiful, but witness how uncomfortable and out of place she looks in that dress as she enters the ball—it’s written all over her face. We later find out that she abandons Woodcock for another, more “chic” house. And all of her friends will surely soon follow her.
Interesting - my interpretation of this was much baser, i.e. that these were often desperately unhappy married women who partly used appointments with Woodcock as socially acceptable intimate contact with a handsome, eligible albeit aloof bachelor. Once he marries Alma, that fantasy is eroded and so is the business in turn. Cecil seems keenly aware of this, and her role in maintaining the fantasy for her clients might be another motivator in her earlier antagonism towards Alma, and Woodcock’s previous lovers.

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Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#263 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Feb 20, 2018 9:42 am

Is Cecil really that antagonistic towards them? Her aloofness seems to disguise a sympathy for them, even a certain amount of contempt for Woodcock's treatment of them (see: when Woodcock comes to rant about old clients dropping him for new, chic houses). I know we're expecting Cecil to fit the type of the jealous protector, the mother-figure for whom no other girl is good enough for her son, but I think Cecil slides past our opening suspicions in subtle ways (tho' she is indeed a mother-figure, just one replaced by Alma, who takes on the role more obviously and deliberately).

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#264 Post by R0lf » Tue Feb 20, 2018 10:00 am

Isn't it the point of the movie that the clothing is all outrageously ugly?

That the entire thing is a comedy of manners?

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#265 Post by Roscoe » Tue Feb 20, 2018 10:12 am

ianthemovie wrote:That's interesting. I read it differently--that the Countess was nervous about attending the gala for some other personal reason that's never clarified (in the dialogue during her fitting she alludes to this event being momentous). I'd have to go back to study her face again as she's making her entrance, but I saw her as having been given confidence by Reynolds and the dress, as stiffly designed as it may be. For me, the scene established Reynolds' power as a designer and his ability to make nervous women feel confident and beautiful in his clothes. It seemed to set up the later scenes when Alma says the same thing (that she had always felt awkward, but Reynolds made her feel beautiful) and when Reynolds feels devastated by the realization that he can't make Barbara Rose feel beautiful in spite of all his efforts to do so.
Agreed mainly -- the Countess seems visibly empowered in her appearance at the gala, I thought. And I liked the little touch of Reynolds selling the dress at his fashion show later on. I can't say that I found his reaction to Barbara Rose's behavior as having anything to do with a failure on his part, it wasn't that he couldn't make her feel better for me. It looked like he took it deeply personally that she would behave so stupidly drunkenly and vulgarly in a dress of his. It's a reflection on him, to him.

And I'd just like to note that Reynolds' sister is named Cyril, not Cecil.

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#266 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue Feb 20, 2018 10:18 am

SpoilerShow
I would say that Woodcock both loves and resents Cyril as she has been this indulging figure who provides for his every whim and caters to his vanity while also running his business- which has effectively infantilized him. Woodcock sees her business acumen as a check on his autonomy, and also seems to project his self disgust at how he has treated other women in his life on to her (which has a psychological logic, as he makes her actually do it.) I suspect Cyril accepts but dislikes this cycle and also must inure herself against actually liking these women, as she believes changing Woodcock would be too risky.

Alma seems to see this dynamic and winds up both shattering it- she has no patience for catering to his every whim- while also making it more extreme- she flatters his artistic self importance and also quite literally puts him in the position of an infant when she poisons him. There's an eroticism to this, particularly as Woodcock is going in eyes open, in a way there was not with Cyril.
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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#267 Post by JamesF » Tue Feb 20, 2018 10:35 am

Mr Sausage wrote:Is Cecil really that antagonistic towards them? Her aloofness seems to disguise a sympathy for them, even a certain amount of contempt for Woodcock's treatment of them (see: when Woodcock comes to rant about old clients dropping him for new, chic houses). I know we're expecting Cecil to fit the type of the jealous protector, the mother-figure for whom no other girl is good enough for her son, but I think Cecil slides past our opening suspicions in subtle ways (tho' she is indeed a mother-figure, just one replaced by Alma, who takes on the role more obviously and deliberately).
I suppose it depends on what degree you take Cyril's (whoops, thanks Roscoe!) passive-aggressive early treatment of Alma as representative of how she's treated the other women before her. (I'm thinking mainly of the "belly" comment, practically the first thing she says to her.) And yes, certainly we have those early expectations of her character, in much the same way we might expect the film to follow a similar narrative path to Rebecca (or with that title, a more arthouse version of Crimson Peak!). I'm not sure I agree how sympathetic she is towards Reynolds' previous lovers though, even if she doesn't entirely approve of his childishness and mood swings. More that she knows that navigating (or focusing?) her brother's whims and tantrums is the key to her meal ticket, both financially and in terms of power and position, and is quick to undermine any threat to that equilibrium. That's not entirely meant selfishly either; she's really the one who runs the business, and does what needs to be done to keep things going smoothly.
SpoilerShow
I agree that once Alma takes on the mother role, it frees Cyril to let the mask slip and find a more frank, confrontational role in handling Reynolds' outbursts, rather than clasp desperately onto power.
EDIT: matrixschmatrix posted his response while I was typing mine, and I can't disagree with anything he says.

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#268 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 11:19 am

R0lf wrote:Isn't it the point of the movie that the clothing is all outrageously ugly?

That the entire thing is a comedy of manners?
No?

It may seem that way to us because it's 2018, but in its time and place it absolutely isn't. You might want to inform everyone who worked on the costumes that it's all a big joke, they certainly don't seem in on it.

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#269 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Feb 20, 2018 2:43 pm

JamesF wrote:
Mr Sausage wrote:Is Cecil really that antagonistic towards them? Her aloofness seems to disguise a sympathy for them, even a certain amount of contempt for Woodcock's treatment of them (see: when Woodcock comes to rant about old clients dropping him for new, chic houses). I know we're expecting Cecil to fit the type of the jealous protector, the mother-figure for whom no other girl is good enough for her son, but I think Cecil slides past our opening suspicions in subtle ways (tho' she is indeed a mother-figure, just one replaced by Alma, who takes on the role more obviously and deliberately).
I suppose it depends on what degree you take Cyril's (whoops, thanks Roscoe!) passive-aggressive early treatment of Alma as representative of how she's treated the other women before her. (I'm thinking mainly of the "belly" comment, practically the first thing she says to her.) And yes, certainly we have those early expectations of her character, in much the same way we might expect the film to follow a similar narrative path to Rebecca (or with that title, a more arthouse version of Crimson Peak!). I'm not sure I agree how sympathetic she is towards Reynolds' previous lovers though, even if she doesn't entirely approve of his childishness and mood swings. More that she knows that navigating (or focusing?) her brother's whims and tantrums is the key to her meal ticket, both financially and in terms of power and position, and is quick to undermine any threat to that equilibrium. That's not entirely meant selfishly either; she's really the one who runs the business, and does what needs to be done to keep things going smoothly.
SpoilerShow
I agree that once Alma takes on the mother role, it frees Cyril to let the mask slip and find a more frank, confrontational role in handling Reynolds' outbursts, rather than clasp desperately onto power.
EDIT: matrixschmatrix posted his response while I was typing mine, and I can't disagree with anything he says.
Her rebuke to Woodcock, asking basically how it feels to be treated the way he treats his women, says a lot I think, as does her unexpected tho' quiet statement that she likes Alma.

Seen next to those and a few other moments, I wonder how passive aggressive her early comments really are. They may in fact be a test: seeing if Alma has any resilience or self-possession, ie. things you'd need to date a man like Woodcock. She is certainly willing to reassure Alma, prop her back up, after judging Alma's reaction to the belly comment.

Anyway, it's conspicuous how, even tho' visually the film shows Alma replacing Cyril (progressive shots of the three of them in a restaurant booth show Woodcock sitting further from Cyril and closer to Alma), Cyril never plays the villain; she engages in no subtle attempts to undermine Alma like, say, the doctor's aunt(?) later on.

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#270 Post by Werewolf by Night » Tue Feb 20, 2018 2:52 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:Also, regarding the back of that pink lace dress - that isn’t being photographed, except by Anderson - it isn’t meant to be a ready-to-wear piece.
Are you saying that, in the world of the film, this gown was made only for a photo shoot? Ready-to-wear means something specific in fashion, and I’m not sure what you mean to say by this.

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#271 Post by Werewolf by Night » Tue Feb 20, 2018 3:19 pm

ianthemovie wrote:
Werewolf by Night wrote:Countess Henrietta Harding has trusted Woodcock (for years, probably) to make her look beautiful, but witness how uncomfortable and out of place she looks in that dress as she enters the ball—it’s written all over her face.
That's interesting. I read it differently--that the Countess was nervous about attending the gala for some other personal reason that's never clarified (in the dialogue during her fitting she alludes to this event being momentous). I'd have to go back to study her face again as she's making her entrance, but I saw her as having been given confidence by Reynolds and the dress, as stiffly designed as it may be. For me, the scene established Reynolds' power as a designer and his ability to make nervous women feel confident and beautiful in his clothes. It seemed to set up the later scenes when Alma says the same thing (that she had always felt awkward, but Reynolds made her feel beautiful) and when Reynolds feels devastated by the realization that he can't make Barbara Rose feel beautiful in spite of all his efforts to do so.
This is an entirely plausible reading, too, and maybe not entirely mutually exclusive of my take. There is the little scene of her talking to Woodcock about how much they’ve been through together. I saw that as her way of saying goodbye to him, though.

Still, it’s a bad dress, the Homer car of evening gowns. A cape, a lace collar, strings of pearls, cutouts, all that velvet? It’s practically Elizabethan in a time of increasing simplicity of design (though maybe it’s meant to be a riotous celebration of the end of material rationing). It’s so out of fashion for the time that I feel like she would have spent the whole night hearing sniggering behind her back. But Homer sure loved that car and felt great sitting in it. (The fact that Day-Lewis apparently designed this dress and Bridges was left to realize it kind of explains [but doesn’t excuse] its nuttiness. He may be a great actor and an enthusiastic collaborator, but this is one aspect of filmmaking he should leave to the experts.)

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#272 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 3:35 pm

Werewolf by Night wrote:
mfunk9786 wrote:Also, regarding the back of that pink lace dress - that isn’t being photographed, except by Anderson - it isn’t meant to be a ready-to-wear piece.
Are you saying that, in the world of the film, this gown was made only for a photo shoot? Ready-to-wear means something specific in fashion, and I’m not sure what you mean to say by this.
My phrasing is likely screwy, you're right. All I meant is that maybe it wasn't finished in time for the shoot, I just meant that it wasn't in a state where it was expected to be worn out of that house in any practical sense the day we see it.

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#273 Post by Werewolf by Night » Tue Feb 20, 2018 3:52 pm

Thanks for the clarification. I’d concede that for the lace. And going back to look at some of the other dresses from the film, I see that lace appliqués (as opposed to full layers of lace) appear to be a signature of the house. (It’d look better with a full lace bodice, though.)

But those zipper seams are really shocking for what’s supposed to be a couture garment.

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Re: Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#274 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Feb 20, 2018 3:55 pm

From the Washington Post: The dresses in ‘Phantom Thread’ are gorgeous, but not dazzling — and that’s the point.
Werewolf by Night wrote:Thanks for the clarification. I’d concede that for the lace. And going back to look at some of the other dresses from the film, I see that lace appliqués (as opposed to full layers of lace) appear to be a signature of the house. (It’d look better with a full lace bodice, though.)

But those zipper seams are really shocking for what’s supposed to be a couture garment.
I have no reason to dispute your evaluation. To me it comes down to something that drives me crazy in films in general - whenever something is described as genius work, whether it be a poem or a novel or how beautiful a woman is or whatever (within the world of a movie), the worst thing that film can do is show it to us - challenge the viewer to pick it apart. Flaws with the garments in Phantom Thread still don't result in my taking the leap toward thinking that the House of Woodcock is meant to be some low level outfit, or an outright joke. The film takes it too seriously for that to make a whole lot of sense. It acknowledges its outdatedness, but anything beyond that seems to be too much unintended viewer inference based on movie costumes not being quite to the level of the fine art they're meant to represent.

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Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)

#275 Post by Werewolf by Night » Tue Feb 20, 2018 4:29 pm

I was going to post this in reply to something else upthread, but it makes just as much sense in reply to what you just said. This is from a Nylon interview with Mark Bridges:
I think if I was to be inspired by anybody, it would’ve been the British designers who were working at the time where our story is set, which is mid-’50s London. And so whether it’s John Cavanagh or Digby Morton, or Michael Sherard, we just looked at what was happening in London at the time and then tried to figure out how Reynolds could have that flavor yet still be his own kind of creative artist couturier who sort of follows his own drummer a little bit and isn’t worried about that dirty word, “chic.”
I just want to reiterate that Woodcock is not (and, as a character, is not intended to be) on the level of a Balenciaga, a Charles James, a Dior. His atelier staff is modest (though still talented) in comparison to theirs, as is the attendance at his shows. He’s simply not a world-class designer. That’s not an insult, though, and doesn’t make him “low-level” (which I never implied). Norman Hartnell, another of the probable models for Woodcock, made beautiful clothes for film stars and royalty (and even made Queen Elizabeth’s wedding and coronation gowns), but I wouldn’t really say he was a Great Artist.

I honestly don’t think Anderson would have been interested in making a film about a Great Artist or he would have stuck more closely to the original models of Balenciaga or James. But what’s interesting about unmitigated artistic and financial success?

But yes, at the end of the day, this is a modestly budgeted indie movie, and there’s no way they could have afforded to make a bunch of couture gowns that really look like couture gowns. It was never my intent to pick them apart (though, admittedly, I did just that), but to explore how Woodcock’s character might be reflected in his work. I’m gonna put my Charles James monographs away now and pipe down.

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