Few actors have enjoyed a career as diverse or acclaimed as that of Daniel Day-Lewis. From the early days in My Beautiful Laundrette through the likes of In the Name of the Father and Lincoln, the chameoleonic actor has earned three Oscars and drawn significant praise for his ability to disappear into real-life potrayals. His storied career now comes to an end with Phantom Thread, a drama that marks Day-Lewis' reunion with There Will Be Blood director Paul Thomas Anderson. Set in London high society in the 1950s, the movie casts Day-Lewis as bachelor dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock whose relationship with his latest muse, Alma (brilliant newcomer Vicky Krieps) undercuts his working partnership with his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), and also threatens to reveal his inner demons.
Nominated for six Oscars (including, unsurprisingly, Best Actor), the cryptic and atmospheric movie also allows for a continuation of the working partnership between Anderson and musician Jonny Greenwood. The Radiohead guitarist announced himself as a film composer of serious repute with the aforementioned There Will Be Blood in 2007, drawing on his work with the BBC Concert Orchestra to conjure a stringent, disturbing masterwork in line with Ligeti and Penderecki. This streak of classicism has underlined all of Greenwood's subsequent collaborations with the filmmaker, striking dreamy and ambient notes in The Master and Inherent Vice. However, Phantom Thread is surely the most impressive so far.
Performed with sublime grace by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the score is split into two main themes. The central 'Phantom Thread' theme is divided into 'Parts I - IV' across the album, signifying the emotional unveiling of Woodcock as the narrative progresses. Wavering strings strike a note of melancholy beauty so far unprecedented in Greenwood's career, and the variations he puts it through are sublime. Woodwind and piano add further strains of regret and pensiveness, and there are several stand-alone cues of noteworthy attractiveness. In particular, 'Tailor of Fitzrovia' and 'House of Woodcock' strike regal notes of quintessential Englishness that are quite breathtaking, a reminder of Greenwood's ability to get to the heart of a particular narrative.
The second major theme, 'Sandalwood', is divided into two sections, alluding to Alma's favourite scent, and the eventual impact she will have on the repressed, troubled Woodcock. In-keeping with her character, it fluctuates and refuses to cohere in the manner of the central character's theme. Alma is a progressive character whose quest for independence rubs up against Woodcock's desires, and the subtle notes of urgency show Greenwood's firm grasp on her character. The turbulence continues in the likes of 'Catch Hold' and 'Never Cursed', alluding to the darkness in Day-Lewis' captivating central portrayal, and whose Bartok-esque strings are characteristic of Greenwood's earlier work on There Will Be Blood.
It's interesting to chart Greenwood's Oscars history through his collaborations with Anderson. In 2007, his work on There Will Be Blood was disqualified for the Academy Award for Best Original Score on a technicality, owing to the fact the soundtrack assimilated pre-existing works like 'Popcorn Superhet Receiver'. Fast forward to 2018 and the composer has received his first-ever nomination for Phantom Thread, and a hugely deserved one it is. A gorgeous score that continues the maturation of Greenwood both as a classical composer and dramatist, it's the very soul of the movie itself, undulating and rippling while maintaining a sense of quaint reserve.