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BENEATH THE PHANTOM THREADS

© 2018 Ron Barbagallo

BEHIND THE PHANTOM THREADS
The audience that goes to see director Paul Thomas Anderson's new film Phantom Thread will be treated to a movie that traffics in the time honored traditions of old Hollywood. Lush cinematography. Period piece costumes. Art direction that sets an emotional tone. A musical score that makes the world you're seeing feel expansive in a classical way. All of this, and a well-chosen cast who draw you into their tempered, interlocked performances. With a deceptive grace of a débutante slowly descending a staircase, Phantom Thread appears to fit neatly into the cinematic template of historical biopic, and
the elements Anderson used to create that effect are also what makes this type of motion picture the sort the Academy® likes to honor at Oscar® time. This year, Phantom Thread garnered six nominations
in many of the categories mentioned above.

 

But this is where the etiquettes used to stitch together the Phantom Thread are more a convention than anything else. A series of optical illusions placed on the conscious surface of the film — not unlike a piece of attractive formal attire might rest on top of the subconscious struggle that dwells in the person who is wearing it. This is why the storytelling in Phantom Thread has such a dreamlike sprawl, and why the time period feels like nostalgia. As if the audience were rubbernecking someone stuck thinking about their past more than the storytelling is a David Lean-like narrative that attempts to document someone in another place and time.

 

This is because, at its very heart, the dress that Phantom Thread wears has nothing to do with the time period it's set, or its beautiful couture. For all its alluring coloring and formal design, the film is an exotic bit of window dressing used to set a stage so PT Anderson can talk about something else - OBSESSION. Not just the obsession a woman has when she's trying to gain emotional completion from a man but the obsession a man can have for the bandage that is his work — and in ways that become less veiled where these obsessions collide and how they inspire.

 

For these reasons, Phantom Thread is one of those films that will sit with you in different ways, and that's because it consciously uses one convention to draw you in so it can talk to you about something you won't expect — how we attempt to use and misuse 'love' to fix the wounds of the past — and how clumsy and cloaked a process that is, like our maneuvering itself is a character in some carefully framed Alfred Hitchcock stage play where you can't tell who the good or bad guy or gal is at any given point in the story. Anyone "in love," or carrying on about "their love" is hiding behind these same phantom threads whether they are conscious of it or not, or evolved enough to know this is what they are doing.

 

So, without giving too much away, Phantom Thread is a film I recommend. Not because it's wearing the fashionable social-memes of the day, or because it's trying to ‘force awakens’ you like a franchise film wearing the latest diversity scarf, but because Daniel Day-Lewis and Lesley Manville deliver delicate performances in a narrative that spirals out on the table like a roll of fabric patiently waiting for a
master craftsman to show us the potential in its weave.

Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day-Lewis in PT Anderson's Phantom Thread.

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ARTICLES ON AESTHETICS IN ANIMATION

BY RON BARBAGALLO:

 

The Art of Making Pixar's Ratatouille is revealed by way of an introductory article followed by interviews with production designer Harley Jessup, director of photography/lighting Sharon Calahan and the film's writer/director Brad Bird.

 

Design with a Purpose, an interview with Ralph Eggleston uses production art from Wall-E to illustrate the production design of Pixar's cautionary tale of a robot on a futuristic Earth.

 

Shedding Light on the Little Matchgirl traces the path director Roger Allers and the Disney Studio took in adapting the Hans Christian Andersen story to animation.

 

The Destiny of Dalí's Destino, in 1946, Walt Disney invited Salvador Dalí to create an animated short based upon his surrealist art. This writing illustrates how this short got started and tells the story of the film's aesthetic.

 

A Blade Of Grass is a tour through the aesthetics of 2D background painting at the Disney Studio from 1928 through 1942.

 

Lorenzo, director / production designer Mike Gabriel created a visual tour de force in this Academy Award® nominated Disney short. This article chronicles how the short was made and includes an interview with Mike Gabriel.

 

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, an interview with Graham G. Maiden's narrates the process involved with taking Tim Burton's concept art and translating Tim's sketches and paintings into fully articulated stop motion puppets.

 

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, in an interview exclusive to this web site, Nick Park speaks about his influences, on how he uses drawing to tell a story and tells us what it was like to bring Wallace and Gromit to the big screen.

 

 

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