Author Topic: Phantom Thread - Critic's Reviews  (Read 5740 times)

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wilberfan

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Re: Phantom Thread - Critic's Reviews
« Reply #45 on: February 07, 2018, 10:36:50 AM »
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Agreed.  But as an old theater buff, that photo is fucking awesome (in a tragic way).
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eward

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Re: Phantom Thread - Critic's Reviews
« Reply #46 on: February 07, 2018, 10:38:53 AM »
+1
True, excellent photo.

Also:
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Lewton

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Re: Phantom Thread - Critic's Reviews
« Reply #47 on: February 09, 2018, 02:30:01 PM »
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It's unfortunate that Lange's article has a title that suggests fans of Phantom Thread are insincere or whatever, but it's worth noting that editors occasionally choose titles, so that might not even have been her decision. That point is not repeated in the article itself. Anyway, if she did come up with the title, then it's a poorly-chosen rhetorical device that fits in with the tenor of certain parts of social media and the online discussion of films, so it's at least understandable why such a title exists. I think it's part of the argot nowadays, unfortunately. Still, I don't think this warrants harsh responses or anger -- even Mark Harris' snarky tweet seems ill-considered because, again, who knows if she even picked the title.

Also, she is a critic, regardless of her official job title. I mean, she's criticizing the film in the context of an article, so she's a critic. I don't think she's inherently wrong about anything, either. I disagree with her perspective, but it's art, so it's debatable. If there was no voice of dissent in the case of this film then that'd be weird. I think the fact that these kind of takes show up is, for me, just a reminder that PTA is doing good work and, as Anthony Lane once put it in his review of Inherent Vice, following his own star. He's taking artistic risks, and this is what happens when artistic risks are taken. Godfrey Chesire's review of TWBB: same thing -- he wants a more straightforward film, which misses the joy of PTA's movies, but whatever, my tastes aren't universal.

Again, though, I disagree with her take. This bit, for instance, is about as far from my own impression as possible:

Quote from:
Here's looking at you, kid, this is not.

The lines she's referring to are actually top-tier in my estimation. I mean, let's see how they hold up over time, but I'll make the claim that this particular exchange ranks among the great bits of film dialogue (or, more precisely, from the selection of movies I've seen).

csage97

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Re: Phantom Thread - Critic's Reviews
« Reply #48 on: February 10, 2018, 11:04:32 PM »
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It's unfortunate that Lange's article has a title that suggests fans of Phantom Thread are insincere or whatever, but it's worth noting that editors occasionally choose titles, so that might not even have been her decision. That point is not repeated in the article itself. Anyway, if she did come up with the title, then it's a poorly-chosen rhetorical device that fits in with the tenor of certain parts of social media and the online discussion of films, so it's at least understandable why such a title exists. I think it's part of the argot nowadays, unfortunately. Still, I don't think this warrants harsh responses or anger -- even Mark Harris' snarky tweet seems ill-considered because, again, who knows if she even picked the title.

The title, which suggests that some sort of mass conformity or unwillingness of the bystander to speak up, is quite odd. I won't comment on the article aside from saying that one interpretation to resolve her fixation on beauty in the film is that the film could be suggesting that beauty can be superficial, and hence a reason why there's no further probing of concepts of beauty more than showing nice dresses and well-ornamented people. Indeed, Reynolds even seems to despise and understand the irony of serving clients who shell out massive sums of money for something less than skin deep.

The twitter comments are a bit funny. In these, she's fixated on the dog and how DDL went through the trouble of suggesting the preferred breed of his character while the dog isn't even seen on screen. She hasn't considered that any shots of the dog were thrown out in the cutting room, nor that they possibly chose not to shoot any of the dog because they decided after that it wasn't needed. As far as DDL specifying the breed, it's called being very prepared and covering all bases. Sometimes, a piece of knowledge, a tool, a scene, an idea, etc., isn't used, but the information and prep was instrumental in zoning in on exactly what's needed for a final product.

The other thing about the dog is that she seems to think no one looks after it. She can't stretch her imagination to think that this rich and highly successful dressmaker who owns two homes (or possibly more than two -- but let's not push her cognitive limits too far), has a squadron of cooks and maids (one of whom is even shown in the cottage house in a subsequent scene), an expensive car, and vast social connections, can't possibly know or pay someone to house sit or drop by to feed and walk the dog. No, no ... that's certainly not possible.

I actually do enjoy reading negative reviews of things I enjoy; I find they bring perspective and there's more or less a limit to a piece of art being objectively good. I typically don't meet bad reviews with negative emotions, unless they're shortsighted or what have you. In this case, I couldn't help it.

wilberfan

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Re: Phantom Thread - Critic's Reviews
« Reply #49 on: April 06, 2018, 11:56:27 PM »
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I thought this--as wrong-headed as I consider it--should perhaps be shared here, mostly because of the prominence of the publication it appears in (The New Yorker).  There were hissings of this sort on Film Twitter when the film came out, but I don't recall a piece like this anywhere in a "mainstream" publication.  (Although apparently a microscopic minority of critics touched upon this in their reviews.)    Maybe it's not even worth the attention here, and I'm doing a disservice by sharing it.  But part of me would hope that someone(s) more articulate than myself will challenge his thesis.


Why “Phantom Thread” Is Propaganda for Toxic Masculinity



Quote
My first experience of cinema was watching “Battle of Neretva” (“Bitka na Neretvi”), a Yugoslav-liberation-war spectacle starring Yul Brynner, Franco Nero, and Orson Welles, as well as domestic actors known to Yugoslav viewers by their first names (Milena, Bata, Boris, Smoki). The movie is about the 1943 battle in which our great leader Tito and his partisans outwitted the Germans and their local collaborators, crossing the river Neretva to escape encirclement. A major co-production, it received substantial funding from America and from fifty-eight Yugoslav state companies, plus logistical support from the Yugoslav People’s Army, which provided ten thousand soldiers as extras and built a steel bridge and a couple of villages to be destroyed in battle scenes. The première took place in Sarajevo, on November 29, 1969, and was attended by Comrade Tito himself, who was accompanied by Sophia Loren and Omar Sharif. Afterward, Tito declared the representation of the great battle very realistic.


I didn’t attend the première, because I was five at the time. But I saw the film at Kino Arena, the movie theatre next door to our apartment building, in Sarajevo. My parents apparently believed that Yugoslav pride would protect me; it was the first movie I ever saw all by myself. It was glorious. On the wide screen, the battle was as real as could be; the thunder of German artillery shelling the refugees went right through my chest; and when the freedom-loving people sang in defiance, I was proud to be a Yugoslav boy. In a scene I’d never forget, Dana, the partisan nurse attending to wounded comrades during battle, is herself struck by shrapnel. With a gaping wound on her back, she implores her brother to keep shooting (“Pucaj!”) and to continue the struggle for freedom. The music swelling, Dana’s brother (played by Smoki) drops his machine gun to embrace his sister, who dies in his arms as he weeps. I wept, too, and subsequently developed a postmortem crush on Dana.


Back then, I was the perfect moviegoer. To me, the film’s propaganda was invisible, as all good propaganda always is, because it was everywhere, and the only thing I saw on the screen was the great battle in which Dana sacrificed her life so that I could watch movies in freedom, all by myself. Much of the power of cinema is in this visual stimulation, which overwhelms the mind with emotion, forcing the viewer to suspend judgment. This is why all the ideologically committed regimes—the Nazis, the Soviets, the Yugoslavs—have been willing to invest in film production.


One might argue that a similar ideology is at work in American cinema—that “Apocalypse Now” is just as loaded with imperialist racism as is John Wayne's openly propagandistic “The Green Berets”; or that “Zero Dark Thirty” is drama-coated torture advertisement, just as “The Hurt Locker” is a war-recruitment movie; or that the preponderance of superhero movies contributes more to this country’s self-image as a superpower than does the deployment of U.S. troops around the world. Still, one would imagine that American auteur cinema, rooted in private enterprise and inherently antithetical to groupthink, is the opposite of propaganda, which by its very nature always projects and endorses the structures of power.


Recently, however, upon watching Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread,” I found myself recalling “Battle of Neretva.” Reynolds Woodcock, the controlling dressmaker played by Daniel Day-Lewis, governs a domain peopled exclusively by obedient and loyal women. Among them, Alma distinguishes herself by refusing to be used and discarded by the couturier. But, for all her relative agency, she exists only within the world of Woodcock. We have no idea who she was before entering it, where she might have come from, or what she might have wanted from her life. Soon after she meets Woodcock, he measures her for dress. When, in a fit of internalized misogyny, she apologizes for having small breasts, he says, “Oh, no, you’re perfect. It’s my job to give you some—if I choose to.” Just as her body is significant only in his dress, she has value only in relation to his ever-present, shamelessly metaphorical hunger.


Anderson's casting effectively reflects this distribution of power: on the one hand, there is Day-Lewis, in his last film performance ever; on the other, a newcomer from Luxembourg, Vicky Krieps, who might have remained unknown had the light of the great star not been cast upon her. The sexual politics of “Phantom Thread” owe much to Alfred Hitchcock: the closeup of Woodcock consuming Alma by way of his (Oscar-nominated) gaze is the most dominant shot in the film; “Vertigo” and “Rebecca” are obvious references. “Phantom Thread” might appear to some as a critical exploration of male power, but for that to be the case there would have to be alternative positions that are not dependent on the hero’s centrality. The scene in which Alma arranges an intimate dinner seems to provide space for such a position, as she litigates against “all your rules and your walls and your doors and your people.” And yet she remains desperate to remain in the House of Woodcock, where she can be the well-dressed mannequin muse, replenishing with her emptiness the great man’s inner life and creativity. When she discovers her function—to feed the hunger, if perversely—love reigns eternal. (The only other woman with some agency in the film is Cyril, Woodcock’s “old so-and-so,” whose life and desire are similarly dictated by him.)


Before Woodcock, Anderson gave us Dirk Diggler and his pronouncedly phallic masculinity in “Boogie Nights.” And, like “Phantom Thread,” “The Master” and “There Will Be Blood” are set in masculinized landscapes in which power is flexed, challenged, then flexed again. In other words, “Phantom Thread” reveals plenty about the auteur's obsessions and self-conception. Like Woodcock, he gives meaning to everything and everyone lucky enough to be inside his domain. And, like Woodcock, Anderson creates sumptuously crafted artifacts, inside of which cryptic messages about himself—phantom threads—are stitched.


Perhaps one man’s sexual politics, however reactionary, do not amount to an ideology. If they do, they might at least be challenged and criticized in the forum of public opinion. And yet few critics saw in “Phantom Thread”—which was nominated for six Academy Awards—a symptom of the Weinsteinian toxic masculinity exposed by the #MeToo movement. (Owen Gleiberman of Variety was a notable exception.) Nor were they concerned that, in stark contrast with the Englishman upon whom the mighty House of Woodcock is built, Alma has no past nor origin of her own. (Christopher Orr, in The Atlantic, determined that Alma was of “indeterminate non-British origin,” while A. O. Scott, in the Times, identified her as “a non-British waitresss.”) More troubling, it was difficult to find anyone who addressed the glaring presence of the (Wood)cock at the heart of the film. Just as propaganda was once invisible to me because it was everywhere, the film’s spectacle of male power—its woodcockiness—was so embedded in its every fibre that it was largely missed.


Everyone, however, identified the Day-Lewis’s genius, which exactly matched Woodcock’s genius and, while we’re at it, Anderson’s genius. Thus frothed Richard Roeper, in the Chicago Sun-Times: “Like Day-Lewis, Reynolds is a mesmerizing, captivating, mercurial, painstakingly meticulous creative force who moves to the sound of his own inner music, has a very specific (and more than a little eccentric) way of doing things, refuses to be rushed and will not allow outside forces to dictate how he operates.” Orr wrote that “Anderson directs with an understated elegance worthy of the House of Woodcock,” while Scott diagnosed Woodcock’s dresses as “works of art, obscurely and yet unmistakably saturated with the passion and personality of their creator,” and that is why “Phantom Thread” is “profoundly, intensely, extravagantly personal film.”


Personal as it may be, the film is about a male genius so supreme that it can choose even when and how to be weakened in the presence of a woman, who, in exchange for monogamy, is ever willing to serve it. Anderson dazzled critics into believing that they’re not reproducing power but affirming the art of the personal. Disguised as art-house cinema, the film spectacularly endorses the inherent genius of masculinity. “Phantom Thread” is nothing if not propaganda for patriarchy.
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Drenk

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Re: Phantom Thread - Critic's Reviews
« Reply #50 on: April 07, 2018, 11:07:21 AM »
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I don't know. If you watch that movie and think that it is a celebration of masculinity then, I don't know, try not to jerk off with your iPhone open in a Weinstein picture. It's so stupid, I don't know where to begin—I don't even think there is somewhere to begin. What does this movie take seriously? Certainly not Woodcock as The Man. Does he begin as The Man at the center of Everything? Yes. Can you stay through the movie even though you have already jizzed on your phone and you must be uncomfortable? Yes, too.

The dude is called Woodcock and his ridiculed, but also taken care of, yes, because although PTA is accused of having characters engaging into "binary" conflits, he's the contrary of that. I'm sure that writer would have liked better a movie ending with Alma and Cyril murdering Reynolds.

If there is one "toxic" myth that the movie takes for granted—and yet, I don't know, not entirely—it's the dedication of artists, how you can lose balance with what's we all call "life"; but even to that myth the movie finds some kind of solution, and you can even argue that Woodcock, at the end of the movie, is toward to end of his rope and will soon retire—like Day-Lewis, like Balenciaga...So: is there really no solution? So is the myth valid? It ends in a lovely fantasy: life and art are not an either/or but an impossible indistinguishable picture. And we know that PTA isn't as extreme as Woodcock, I believe when he says that he believes that you can be dedicated to your art while being a functioning human being with other, but I also believe that an artist is living in some alternate zone between the living and the dead, between his present and his past, and that it is hard to avoid to lose yourself.
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BB

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Re: Phantom Thread - Critic's Reviews
« Reply #51 on: April 07, 2018, 11:48:07 AM »
+2
I'd call it a classic case of reading representation as endorsement. I don't think the movie shares Woodcock's perspective at all. Indeed it seems to regard him as kind of a wiener. I think we're meant to laugh at him pretty much the whole time.

And I'm still not sure where this image of Woodcock as utterly monstrous is coming from. He's privileged for sure and entitled and cold and sometimes mean and finicky about being disturbed at breakfast. Like, I see what they're getting at, but the reaction is thoroughly disproportionate to the character's actual behaviour. This ain't the Plainview of sex. 

Drenk

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Re: Phantom Thread - Critic's Reviews
« Reply #52 on: April 07, 2018, 12:05:44 PM »
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No but this is The Weinstein Moment.
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wilberfan

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Re: Phantom Thread - Critic's Reviews
« Reply #53 on: April 07, 2018, 12:15:53 PM »
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I don't think the movie shares Woodcock's perspective at all. Indeed it seems to regard him as kind of a wiener. I think we're meant to laugh at him pretty much the whole time.


An excellent point.  Of the main characters in the film, he's the only one that really needs to get over himself. (The Countess Harding is perhaps the only other character portrayed in a way to invite our derision.  Barbara Rose is outwardly comical (being extremely drunk the entire time)--but (for me) quickly becomes someone quite heartbreaking in her sadness.
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csage97

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Re: Phantom Thread - Critic's Reviews
« Reply #54 on: April 07, 2018, 01:05:33 PM »
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I'd call it a classic case of reading representation as endorsement. I don't think the movie shares Woodcock's perspective at all. Indeed it seems to regard him as kind of a wiener. I think we're meant to laugh at him pretty much the whole time.

Yes, x100. I don't know why anyone writing a critical piece would take such things as endorsements. Do they ever consider that the authors might present such a character because they are against such behaviour and want to explore the issue? (Disclaimer: I don't think it's that simple in Phantom Thread, but I don't think PTA or anyone involved endorses Woodcock's extreme behaviour.) Does an author support crime when writing a crime story? What about a story about prejudice? Violence? Sexual violence? Unfortunately, if there's no hero to thwart the evil-doer, audiences often take such a thing as an endorsement of the crime, but it's hardly ever that: In real life, there's often no justice for these acts, and the authors want to call to attention and come to face such difficult issues, make people aware of them and something we consider.

This "toxic masculinity" catchphrase is really starting to annoy me. It's got the air of click-baity buzz-phrase all over it, and it's disappointing that a publication like The New Yorker put it in a title.

Jeremy Blackman

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Re: Phantom Thread - Critic's Reviews
« Reply #55 on: April 07, 2018, 01:55:23 PM »
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Film criticism is fueled by takes.

You don't get any clicks for "Review: Phantom Thread." But "Why Phantom Thread Is Propaganda for Toxic Masculinity" will certainly get you those clicks. That's just how it works now, and most of it can be ignored. Remember all the garbage articles that came out every day during Game of Thrones' last season? Remember how much I complained about that? Ignore.

Phantom Thread can be viewed in all these problematic ways. It has a lack of clarity and explicitness that just opens those floodgates. If you choose to view it as misogynist and "propaganda for patriarchy" (lol), you will be able to find enough text to support that interpretation.

I don't think people understand how idiosyncratic PTA's themes actually are, and that he really tries not to have his movies engage with culture in straightforward ways. Which makes it even harder to explain to a non-PTA fan.
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Jeremy Blackman

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Re: Phantom Thread - Critic's Reviews
« Reply #56 on: April 07, 2018, 02:07:01 PM »
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Also that writer has a famous quote that was pretty much stolen from "Creep":
"Hunger is the purest sin"

 

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