PHANTOM THREAD (15)

Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
With: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, 
Lesley Manville
Runtime: 130 minutes

THERE are so many gorgeous sights in Paul Thomas Anderson’s romantic drama the viewer’s eyes flit across the screen like butterflies on the first warm day of summer. For drop dead elegance, however, it is hard to beat the scene featuring the main protagonist in his underwear. No one has ever pulled on socks (long, bright red) with quite the same aplomb as Daniel Day-Lewis does here, but then there is no one quite like the triple Oscar winner for making almost everything he does on screen seem a marvel.
His performance in this 1950s-set tale of a London couturier unravelled by love finds Day-Lewis in the running for a fourth Oscar. Before the film was finished he announced this will be his last acting gig. No pressure, then, on the Academy, or Anderson, to send him on his way in the awards-garlanded style to which he has become accustomed.
Anderson and Day-Lewis previously worked together on There Will Be Blood, the story of a prospector whose thirst for oil and power could never be quenched. At first glance, hardscrabble oilman Daniel Plainview seems a different species from Reynolds Woodcock, the painfully fastidious tailor at the centre of events in Phantom Thread, but the two men share a ruthlessness that destroys those on whom it is unleashed.
We witness his iciness at first hand during breakfast with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville, Oscar-nominated for best supporting actress) and a woman who appears to be Reynolds’ lover. The latter is seeking reassurance about their future and he is looking at her as if she is a butter stain on a piece of ivory silk. “I simply don’t have time for confrontation,” he sighs. Cyril will later take care of this unpleasantness the way she handles everything to do with the family business. Reynolds, dressmaker to nobility and movie stars, is the artist, his sister one of many women, from his seamstresses to his lovers, there to smooth his path through the world and allow him to feel completely in control.
On a trip to the country, the 
self-proclaimed “confirmed bachelor” encounters someone far removed from his stuffy Establishment world. Alma (Vicky Krieps) is young, unaffected, a waitress and a foreigner. He is entranced and soon she has been recruited as his latest muse and breakfast companion. How long will it be this time before Cyril needs to have a quiet word?
Not that long, it seems. Even the way Alma butters toast appears to wound Reynolds’ very soul. Day-Lewis as a spoiled, ageing fusspot is a joy to behold, his hissy fits, complete with showers of elegantly detonated expletives, magnificent. Alma does not care about Reynolds’ moods. She loves him and is not afraid to show it. But after a time even she comes to wonder if her love will ever be returned.
Anderson, who writes as well as directs, gives few clues about Alma. There is a whisper of tragedy in her background which could account for her strength. Reynolds seems not to have any hinterland. Only Cyril, the adult among the silly children, comes across as a wholly rounded character. 
The entire picture could be seen as just as shallow as Reynolds, a two-hour-plus exercise in style over substance that is not above lurches into melodrama. It is indeed a stunningly shot picture, even by the standards of Anderson (Boogie Nights, The Master), but it is so much more besides. This is an old-fashioned film about romance that dares to play out like the love affair it depicts. It sweeps the viewer up in its embrace, whirls them from one emotional extreme to the next, leaving them exhilarated one minute and downcast the next when something falls just short of expectations. In keeping with this vibe is an original score by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead which is as neat a match to the film as Aimee Mann’s music was to Anderson’s Magnolia.
All of this plus the perfectly pitched performances make Anderson’s picture a glorious little oddity, a burst of shimmering loveliness in a grey world. Once again, he and Day-Lewis have gone their own way, making something as well worn as a love story seem fresh, surprising and just the right side of deranged.
Stay in the lions’ den of acting, Daniel, your profession needs you.

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Den of Thieves (15) ***
Dir: Christian Gudegast 
With: Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Junior
Runtime: 140 minutes

A COP determined to catch a robber. Los Angeles. Long shoot out scenes. Drenched in testosterone. If you’ve seen Michael Mann’s Heat it will seem like deja vu all over again watching Christian Gudegast’s thriller, but this time with added Gerry Butler as a maverick (yawn) cop. The Scot is also a producer, which means he gets a container load of scenes in which to showboat. At 140 minutes the film itself overstays its welcome, it is not half as clever as it clearly thinks it is and women are strictly optional extras. On the upside is a star-making performance from Pablo Schreiber as Gerry’s nemesis.
GERARD BUTLER INTERVIEW - SEE TODAY’S HERALD MAGAZINE

The Final Year (12A) ****
Dir: Greg Barker
With: Barack Obama, John Kerry, Samantha Power
Runtime: 90 minutes

NO sooner has Donald Trump notched up his first year in office than Greg Barker’s perceptive HBO documentary on Obama’s swansong is released. The focus here is on foreign policy, with Barker concentrating on Secretary of State John Kerry, Obama speechwriter Ben Rhodes and Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN, as they jet around the world trying to lay down policy on Syria, Cuba, Iran and climate change (all of which Trump now threatens to overturn). Barker’s film is fascinating in a “West Wing brought to life” kind of way. It’s a reminder, too, that all political careers end up in a cardboard box eventually. 
GFT February 2-5; Filmhouse, Edinburgh, February 6; and on iTunes