Monthly Archives: July 2018

Review: Phantom Thread

phantom-thread1I read somewhere on the internet that it would have been a shame if Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread “won” Best Picture, especially when measured up against other, quote, “quirkier” and “stranger” offerings like the eventually triumphant Shape of Water. A two-character drama set in the secluded lairs of the British bourgeoisie, the aesthetic proclivities and nominally-classical texture of Phantom Thread apparently encase it in the stifling halls of traditionalist, conservative cinema in this framework. This equation, of course, pits the film against its corollary, but also its diametrical opposite, or its positive mirror-image, in Shape of Water, a fellow warped mid-century love affair between unlikely companions. But the assumption that Shape is forward-thinking and Phantom Thread backward-moving is not only a cruel fate for the latter film, considering the beguiling ways in which Paul Thomas Anderson’s work plunges into the artifice and performance of desire and gender and discloses truth within. The comparison, not to mention Shape’s eventual win, also illuminates a much more significant problem with the status of debates around “progressive” and “regressive” cinema and their, in this case, imbrication upon a certain construction of, or false opposition between, a binary of “strange” and “traditional”. Continue reading