Daniel Day-Lewis is as close to a sure thing in film as is possible. He is a wonder to watch. Almost every time he takes on a role or character you can put money on the fact that he will earn an Oscar nomination. That talented, he is. A man who disappears completely into his characters. You don’t see him or his persona, but simply the character. Throughout his career this has allowed him to believably take on a variety of characters like an boxer from Northern Ireland, an American president, a Czech doctor, an Irish man with cerebral palsy, a nineteenth century New Yorker who is a member of high society, a small-time Belfast thief wrongly imprisoned for an IRA bombing in London, and others. This is reputedly his last role, which is a real shame. Revel in it while you can.
Post World War II London is trying to return to the metropolis it once was. Recovering from the war. Part of this attempt involves a return to fashion. The wearing and designing of high fashion. As for the designing part, one of the brightest lights comes in the form of Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis – My Left Foot, The Boxer). Woodcock is a man of particular tastes and habits. A confirmed bachelor, he works out of his house in London with the aide of his unmarried sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville – Maleficent, Mr. Turner), and many female seamstresses. He is a fastidious man totally invested in his profession, who doesn’t like any alterations to his routine. That all changes when he meets a young, strong-willed woman.
After having Cyril take care of getting rid of his latest paramour, Reynolds, upon his sister’s recommendation, heads out to the family’s countryside property. While eating his breakfast out one morning his eye is caught by a young waitress. Soon they are engaging in conversation and at the end of his meal he invites Alma (Vicky Krieps – Hanna, The Young Karl Marx) to dinner that evening. Such is the beginning of their rather strange, dangerous and uncontrolled relationship.
At many points during this over two hour film, you will find yourself shocked by the awful behaviour of all three of the main characters. There are certainly no heroes here. The obvious one is Reynolds Woodcock himself. With his odd mannerisms, lack of emotion and obsession about control Reynolds is an easy target for your displeasure. He is matched in coldness and control by his sister Cyril, who is played by the marvellous Lesley Manville, totally deserving of the Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. In the beginning you feel sorry for the poor, out of her element Alma, and then your realize that she can more than hold her own against the two siblings.
Paul Thomas Anderson, like his male lead, never makes a poor or dull film. He has been the man in charge on films like Boogie Nights, Punch-Drunk Love, The Master, and Magnolia. A varied roster of films in his portfolio. As he has directed plenty of music videos by the likes of Radiohead, Fiona Apple and Aimee Mann. Also, it is not the first time Day-Lewis and Anderson have worked together as they did the film There Will Be Blood.
Everything about this film has been thought out (ode to Reynolds Woodcock’s attention to detail) and done well. As you would expect in a film involving fashion design, the costume design by American Mark Bridges (The Artist, Boogie Nights) is glorious at times and always eye catching. The music by Brit Jonny Greenwood (guitar player in Radiohead) is up to his usual high standards. Full of poignant piano and soaring strings. Totally contributing to the director’s attempt to establish an atmosphere.
An exquisite film, but don’t get me wrong, it is not a film for everyone. Slow, long and dreary. Filled with silence and long takes. It will remind many cinephiles out there of Kubrick’s work. On the other hand, for those who can bear this type of film, it is delicate and intimate. It truly gives you an insight into the life of someone who can be categorized as a true artist. A man who’s work is a calling and fully encompasses him. There is romance to be found, but it is not your typical love story. A love that might seem dysfunctional from the outside. It really is what happens when two rather fragile characters are involved.
- Camera Tests
- For the Hungry Boy
- House of Woodcock Fashion Show
- Behind the Scenes Photographs