Monday, October 23, 2017

The First "Phantom Thread" Trailer Starts an Elegant Swan Song for Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day Lewis in Phantom Thread
It's the partnership that cinephiles have been clamoring for over the past 10 years. In 2007, director Paul Thomas Anderson teamed with acclaimed actor Daniel Day-Lewis for arguably one of the 21st century's greatest achievements: There Will Be Blood. In the time since, Lewis has become the first actor to receive three Best Actor statues, and has announced his next pairing with Anderson would be his swan song. Phantom Thread would be the most anticipated movie of 2017 even without the departure of a cinematic icon. With the first trailer, everyone looks to be in top form with Anderson doing a largely more refined movie than he has in the past, though not without its idiosyncrasies. It looks like an elegant period drama that won't just get Lewis a potential and largely unbeatable fourth Oscar, but may finally get Anderson back into the Best Picture race for the first time in a decade. If the trailer has anything to say about it, the chances are very good.

There's a certain bias that's hard to overlook here. I started this Oscar Buzz blog five years ago because of Anderson's film The Master. It's a film that I hold dear to my heart and (controversially I suppose) think is his best movie. I am almost too much in favor of Anderson winning any and every award thrown at him. Even if Inherent Vice probably didn't stand much of a chance, I was out there rooting for it during awards season and was psyched when it cropped up a nomination at the Oscars. I have a bit of trouble determining an Anderson film as being bad because they intrigue me in such specific ways that I like to find the good even in films that I don't really care for. Of course I think highly of There Will Be Blood and I do think the chance to see him work with Lewis again is more than welcome. It's obviously why I'm high on the Phantom Thread buzz that's been building to this first trailer.

I've had a conflicting relationship with Lewis' work in the past. I notably didn't care for his performance in Lincoln. However, I still do think that cumulatively he's one of those phenomenal actors that will be dissected for decades. How could the man who brought us Gangs of New York and There Will Be Blood bring us The Age of Innocence too? He's committed without being annoying like Jared Leto. It makes you understand that acting can be an art form, though his intricate selection process does make the down time a bit annoying. He hasn't been in a movie in five years, which makes this movie a celebration as well as overdue. After all, James Franco has probably starred in 39 movies and 15 TV shows in that time. The least Lewis could do was a drop in cameo for Steven Spielberg in The BFG or something.

Check out the trailer below:

It looks very good. Here's the plot description according to IMDb:
Set in the fashion world of 1950s London, a dress-maker is commissioned to design for members of high society and the royal family.
While Anderson has gotten into making slower movies set in the past, there's something that feels different about this. In some ways, it reminds me of when Martin Scorsese made The Age of Innocence (again, with Lewis) after decades of more violent and aggressive movies. It feels like a departure where he's going to test his limits of human drama and explore internal struggle through physical reactions. I think Lewis' role in that Scorsese film is vastly underappreciated, and I like to think he's going to bring a lot of that charm here. Even then, the reserved quality of the acting here suggests that this isn't even going to be slow in the same ways as The Master. It's going to be more traditional in a dramatic sense.

The idea that Lewis is going to retire does make one hope that this is a flat out masterpiece. He deserves to have his finale be something so successful that it embodies every capability he has as an actor. I'd like to imagine that a potential fourth Oscar win will also solidify his stature as something great within the acting community, like Katharine Hepburn before him and, probably, Meryl Streep after. This is a chance to see director and actor deliver a film that looks a lot different than their previous get together, and it may result in Lewis' second-best performance. Time will tell, but Oscar prognostication lies heavily over this trailer, and it's so luscious and sweet that I hope it's another hit for the There Will Be Blood team. 

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