The whole story is the familiar story of the impression of love and woman, as accompany and partner, on the artistic life of a man; a theme repeated over and over again in the history of cinema. From the latest of the kind they are "Phantom Thread" by Paul Thomas Anderson and "Mother" by Aronofsky- two debatable works of the year.
Just by the same reasons I appreciate the work of Paul Thomas Anderson, I disapprove of Aronofsky's Mother.
Things are born through their media. The form of each medium does not exists beyond that medium. It is the specific form of each medium that makes it what it is, and the media are inconvertible to each other. The medium for Da Vinci's "La Jocode" and "The Last Supper" is painting. And for "Vertigo" the medium is for sure the exceptional medium of motion pictures- the cinema. The medium for Vivaldi's "Stabat Mater" and Bach's "Cantos" is merely music, which is the peak of form- and art.
Phantom Thread is one of the closest of the kind to the medium of cinema as an artwork; the ability which is exclusive to the cinema and visual medium as accomplished by means of mise-en-scene. It is not like that the only things mise-en-scene do are the directing and decoupage. Rather mise-en-scene is the correct/proper visual management; the lighting (illumination) the true recognition and use of colours, composition, and text; it is the scenery, décor, and their setting added to the acting i
Paul Thomas Anderson treads this way to create one of the most profound and complex instances of human relationship. Another version (example) of the fine juxtaposition of love and betrayal, and the complex relation between man and woman with a focus on (the dual of) woman and affection as a source of inspiration or the goddess of creativity. A gothic and exquisite romance about special masculine etiquettes and the tendency to rule and observe, even with the language of cinema.
The film spins around Reynolds with Alma as the narrator. Alma is a fair woman who seems naive and even clumsy at first with her way of entering the film and her blushed face in her encounter (with Reynolds). But little by little she gets closer to the perilous realm of love and villainy. Reynolds is a famous tailor with peculiar morals; meticulous, melancholic, and engaged in his profession and bemused in his own worlds. Loving his late mother who had bade him this job, he feels her presence everywhere beside himself and has sewed her name in closest distance to his heart- in the warp and woof of his coats. Through weaving strings and sewing pompous clothes he tries to closes himself to the underworld/the world of phantom and contents his mother (perhaps the title of the film is associated with such end on the side of Reynolds).
Now it's the woman's turn to take us, with her desolator and frenzy infatuation, to adventures meant to (better) realize the man and fathom his complex inner self. But the peevish man of our story is as scrupulous and sentient enough to hide his sentiments behind a masque of irritability, then in order to discover his truth one should hold on to receive hints issued unconsciously by him and exposed by the filmmaker (the artist). But how? Through disclosing his relations to other characters, the world around him – like things as shifted within the frames-, and through catching his facial expressions in blowing up a certain feeling usually conveyed through the eyes, the tone of his gaze, gestures (of course the dazzling acting of Day-Lewis), and starts-and-stops and the camera's angles. That is why I claim this- at least yet - unattended product is the closest to the medium of cinema.
For its production, Phantom thread neither needs awesome special effects nor continually spinning stories; instead does Paul Thomas Anderson go in the wake of such masters as Max Ophuls, Hitchcock, and David Lynn in masterworks like The Unknown Woman, Vertigo, and Brief Encounter- with a simple language which transcends (unnecessary) complexities- propose profound and complex concepts. The film takes its strength from its form and manages to arouse sensations.
In one sequence of the film Alma, herself the reason d'etre of her spouse's patience, has sit by the man's bed to care him, holding a kubln and carefully plunges the needle into the cloth to get colourful threads out.
Phantom thread is a film of intuition. We go along with Alma and take patience till the iceberg gets melted and the tough man get tranquilized in the arms of the woman. Like a baby in his mother's arm. The final sequence (don't be afraid, this is not is not going to spoil the film) displays the man and woman in the middle of a frame filled with the colour of blue. The man is knelt down and the woman's stood up. The man who once was taking her sizes to let her into his world, putting on a smile now, after passing a terrible experience, is helping her put off the awkward dress he has made her at the outset of the film.