Anderson scoops up a swirl of influences from Powell and Pressburger to Hitchcock and transforms them into a fairy tale of a film in which you are never sure what might happen next.
Daniel Day-Lewis has announced his retirement and if Phantom Thread is his final film, then it is an impressive, Oscar-nominated farewell as he burrows beneath the perfectly clad skin of acclaimed high society fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock.
This is a fastidious fellow who provides gorgeous gowns for European royalty and high society London and has the standing of a real-life figure such as Norman Hartnell. Reynolds is a perfectionist who demands order and control, being the kind of man who could never pass a crooked painting without stopping to straighten it.
This highly strung genius is protected by his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) who acts as the gatekeeper to his world. She is the one who tells the latest woman in his life when it is time to pack her bags. She is as steely and implacable as Mrs Danvers in Rebecca but Lesley Manville’s impeccable, Oscar-nominated performance makes her a much more human, sympathetic figure.
Everything changes when Reynolds meets waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps). He is completely smitten and there is a sense that she could be the Eliza to his Henry Higgins as she grows into the role of his muse. However, Reynolds is impossibly demanding and uncompromising. The noise of butter being scraped on toast can break his concentration and ruin the entire day. If Alma plans to stick around, then she will have to follow his rules.
Then again Alma is not as docile as she first appears and enormous credit goes to the relatively unknown Vicky Krieps for making Alma such a formidable character, full of hidden depths and wiles. The fact that she can go toe-to-toe with Daniel Day-Lewis and emerge as his equal suggests that a great future lies ahead.
The film becomes increasingly unpredictable and twisted as the fraught central relationship becomes a battleground. Who is really in control here? Phantom Thread is simply sumptuous. The work of the costume department is outstanding with a spiffy wardrobe for Reynolds and glamorous gowns that could have graced Audrey Hepburn.
The pin-sharp precision of the dialogue, the magnificent, lilting musical score from Jonny Greenwood and the quality of the performances all combine to create an audacious, spellbinding slice of storytelling.