Saturday, February 10, 2018

Exit Man-Child

I watched Phantom Thread a few days ago. In the theatre! The last film I watched in the theatre was probably Nil Batte Sannata, but this was Daniel Day-Lewis' last, so I had to watch it on a big screen, etc etc is why I put myself through all that going to a mall to watch a film entails.

(That was a complicated sentence. I will keep it simple for the rest of this post).

In this interview with middle school girls, Anderson says that he wanted to work with Day-Lewis again, and so over the course of a few months, the two of them sat together and figured out the story they wanted to tell.

So here's the thing: this story of a grown man surrounded by women propping him up in all things great and small is the role Daniel Day-Lewis wanted to be his last, before he retires forever from cinema.

That is even more disappointing than the film itself.

I'm not going over the plot. It involves clothes, Day-Lewis looking quite hot, the women he dresses not so, and a weird twist in the tale in the last ten minutes that was - how shall I put it? - very difficult to stomach.

You'd think that a film where most of the speaking roles belong to women, where in fact, there are more named women characters than men, would be a good thing. Nope. Not if, in all their actions, the needs of this great big man-child are the only important thing.

He needs silence at the breakfast table. Scrape butter too loudly, crunch toast, pour tea from an unacceptable height, tell him he's expected to attend a wedding, and the man's a nervous wreck, his day ruined and his inspiration in shreds. He asks a woman out and talks about his dead mother the entire time. Worse: he removes her make up at a restaurant because that's how he likes to see her. 

And so creepy the way his sister grooms this woman he brings home to be his muse (someone said on twitter, men having muses is nothing more than a way to conceal an erection beneath an education): how softly she should eat, how she must not introduce the slightest variation in his routine, etc etc.

I think this is supposed to signify the man's fragile genius. 

Poor Daniel Day-Lewis. If he needs to remove every male character from the script (bar one doctor whom his character tells to fuck off), if he needs to play a man who has to have women mother him and protect him and stand like mannequins around him, and be jealous but not so jealous that they impinge on his life in any meaningful way, all in order to garner a final Oscar nomination, then that's just pathetic.

If he wins, I think I will be capable of one more level of disappointment. (Personally, I think Timothee Chalamet should win in this category).

(I had more to say but now I'm just bored with how silly this film is. Now that this is out my system, I hope I will stop saying, "Another thing about Phantom Thread' to myself at odd moments during the day.)


Vincent said...

Thank you for this, in a few words you have made me very much want to see this film. This is the kind of male fantasy that I expect to find most liberating. Feminine disapproval only increases my sense of delicious expectation.

Space Bar said...

It's sure to meet with your expectations. How pleasant that must be for you.

Vincent said...

I watch movies for entertainment, not to feed a puritanical sense of virtue. Please don't grudge me that.

Space Bar said...

I don't know why you would confuse my stating an opinion to wanting to impose it on anyone else. By all means watch whatever you like, for whatever reason you like (and please - before you say it - this is not me giving you permission).

Vincent said...

Never mind, I've become a fan of yours, ready to pester you with my contrary opinions, unless you prefer that I go away. But also to feel a kinship in other ways.

Space Bar said...

No, please stay and read. It's nice to know the blog still has readers!

Anonymous said...

Ah, Timothee Chalamet. Dhanno is freaking out over him. :) Phantom Thread, however. I found the male fantasy of muse, and genius so over the top, that it seemed like a very tongue-in-the-cheek critique to me, actually. Hmm. The end was a bit of a bummer.

Space Bar said...

Did it seem like a critique to you? I didn't see it that way at all. But I'll read anything you write that argues that case!

TC, eh? He's one to watch, for sure. (Tho with the werid Henry V Netflix that's in the works, I'm kind of side-eyeing him a bit). Has Dhanno watched Lady Bird yet?

Anonymous said...

Lady Bird is to come yet, no? We just saw the trailer. Not downloaded for sure.

Lakshmi said...

I was sorely disappointed with the film myself. I was left unmoved by all the assertions about the man's genius. I felt as if they presented his personality in a superficial manner, not really delving into the why/how of his various idiosyncrasies, etc. I was also disappointed by the way they showed the relationship between the two main characters (Lewis and his muse; I cannot even recall the names of the characters any more!).

Now "Call me by your Name," I loved that film So Much. I could watch it again! It's exquisite in every way possible. :)

New reader! Came to your blog by way of Ammani's blog.

Vincent said...

By way of postscript:

I saw Phantom Thread yesterday and greatly enjoyed it as entertainment and feast for the eye.

But I felt it had a great more depth & sweetness than you allow in your remarks.

And it’s important to note that Daniel Day-Lewis as co-producer and actor isn’t the same as DDL as a person, someone we are are free to love, hate or have no opinon about.

To me it was clear that the couturier he plays takes himself hyper-seriously and basks in the worship of “his” women, whether they be clients, seamstresses, current model as selected from the casting couch---or the queen bee, his sister Cyril. To the audience, he is laughably over-the-top, exploits everyone without feeling or mercy. But then from his point of view, they are all in it for what they can get. He offers them a life.

From the very first scene, we look forward to his come-uppance., even if we are affected by his elegance. But it seems that he’s in a closed bubble. If you don’t like his rules, goodbye.

But then he meets Alma, exquisitely played by Vicki Krips. She is instantly bowled over by this man, not for his wealth, power to lift her above waitressing to a public career, not to be the top woman in his seraglio, which in any case Cyril won’t allow. She offers him a woman’s love, unconditionally. He’s a spoilt mummy’s boy, this is something that goes over his head. They marry but it doesn’t give Alma equality as a spouse.

She finds an extraordinary way to budge him, it can’t be a thought-out plan, it must be intuitive. By this ruse he is reduced to helplessness, dependent entirely on her. But then, when he gets better, it’s back to his old ways.

Now he’s up against it. Everyone must work all night to repair the wedding dress for delivery in the morning. Alma is inspired once more: this time he is not caught unawares but complicit. By the exchange of smiles when the film ends, we are left to construct our own ending. If her true love doesn’t work on him to learn how to reciprocate, nothing will.

It’s a top-class romantic comedy after all, Pride and Prejudice for our century.