Phantom Thread – film review

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Sir Paul Thomas Anderson gifts us with yet another masterpiece. 

Phantom Thread is a film that illustrates a unique perspective of love; a love so sweet and cruel that is shaped and manipulated by the fragile threads of each character’s hearts.

A story between fashion and romance whispered with such delicacy that only the medium of film can convey.

Like a feather flying away. You’d never wonder where it’s coming from, instead, you stare at its hypnotic movements. It only takes one head turn to discover a dying bird. They call it “the calm after the storm”.

The film’s characters played respectively by acting legend Daniel Day-Lewis and revelation actress Vicky Krieps, talk and move just like feathers in the wind, with such hush that could only come from restless souls.

The more silence, the more each line will signify. The more long takes, the more each short take will signify. We’re hanging on every word, every take, every note, leaving us breathless, like the pain of a first love. A method masterfully used by Anderson to manipulate the audience, most probably inspired by the likes of Stanley Kubrick.

Yet “Phantom Thread” has all a film should have. Strong lead performances, a superb original screenplay, neat cinematography, not to forget the costume design either which perfectly depicts the 50s post-war London ambience. All of this, embraced by Greenwood’s transcendental and sublime score that will stay with you long after the cinema shuts down and everybody goes home.

It’s indeed a rare, rare feeling. Leaving the screen speechless and yet, your head is spinning. Even the world outside the picture house seems more flattering than usual.

An intimate film of cinematic splendor that gives a new meaning to elegance.

“Whatever you do, do it carefully”

By Lorna May. logo

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Doctor Says I have Cinephilia

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Dear Doctor Lecter,

I’m writing to inform you I won’t need your services any longer.

Not only do I firmly believe that there’s no cure for my condition, but I also claim the right to enjoy it.

I’ve been diagnosed with CINEPHILIA, therefore I refuse to believe that a word composed by the suffix “philia”, the Greek word for love, could be considered a mental disorder.

Nevertheless, I’m aware that love itself, is considered to be an illness. Literature and poetry have often described love as a kind of madness, with similar symptoms caused by drugs such as cocaine and other substances that end in -ine.

Your predecessor, Sigmund Freud himself said “isn’t what we mean by ‘falling in love’ a kind of sickness and craziness, an illusion, a blindness to what the loved person is really like?”. (He also said that we fall in love with something with a quality that we wish to have/be)

We don’t have much in common, but we do share something: the human condition, the worst illness of all.

So let me be ill with pride and joy! Let me indulge in my reverie! Let me dance with the gods, from shot to shot.

Love, is to love in a particular way. I’ll illustrate you mine.

You see, every average Joe can discover a masterpiece, but only a cinephile could uncover the glories, all the more wondrous for being hidden, of minor, even failed work that might be refashioned, if only by force of will, into greatness of another kind, perhaps even a better kind.

Ah, those images.

Words pour forth most often as a stream of consciousness or Freudian free association indicating a keen awareness that even the poetry of certain words could never quite convey the poetry of an image.

Cinephilia is the art of seeing in movies what others don’t see. Hitchcock’s beauty of form, the maniacal symmetry of Kubrick, the tenderness under the surface of some of Bunuel’s cruelest films, the old-fashioned elegance of Woody Allen, the perverse intellect of Otto Preminger, the colorful apartments of Almodovar’s grey women, that haze of Fellini movies.

And there she is. Jeanne Moreau, seen through a glass, lightly. The bitter tears of Jean D’Arc. Audrey Hepburn’s slow-motioned smile.

Life can be so miserable, compared to movies. Without the fact that it lasts much longer.

Near the beginning of Bertolucci’s film The Dreamers – among other things an ode to cinephilia – a lonely young American in 1960s Paris haunts the Cinémathèque, lapping up movies, always sitting in the front rows so that, as he says, he can capture the image before anyone else.

It is a beautiful form of addiction; an eclectic, voracious, impassioned, if not a little sentimental way of dealing with the unthinkable, life.

For a cinephile, even a truly awful movie is almost as good as a really great one, and infinitely preferable to a simply mediocre one. But then again, doesn’t this philosophy apply to anything else?

A film embraces moments of quiet euphoria, and makes of those moments a private, shared mythology. The image. The idea of the image itself is sublime. My heart is pounding. It makes my hand reach for a tranquilizer.

But maybe, dear Dr Lecter, I tell myself that you might be right after all. My condition is in a certain way, a form of fetishism rather than a form of love. It is clear that the aura of movies is what I cherish the most. I want to possess the movies, not to own them.

See you at the next session.

Sincerely,

Lorna May

By Lorna May. logo

A Psychoanalytic Portrait

Patient                                                             Doctor

F.                                                                   Lorna May

Session N.1

Presenting problems and situation: 

F. is an almost middle aged man with the heart of a child. As all musicians, he’s unstable and an asshole. F.’s relationship with life is very much bound to his relationship with art.

PURITANISM seems to be the main concern. We might describe him as an “artistic puritan”. This remark is based on the foundations of his taste in music and cinema.

F. presents a compulsive obsessive interest on whatever is related to the Jazz age.

An art critic, studying his case from a farther angle, might end up with the conclusion that as a jazz musician, his puritanism is only praiseworthy. F., being gifted of an inhuman perfectionism and a totalitarian control over the use of his hands (normally linked with classic pianists) doesn’t obviously want to be influenced (in worst case scenarios – contaminated) by other music genres. His rejection to art discovery is an early sign of senile dementia.

The same applies to cinema. F.’s film education, unsurprisingly, also dates back to the Jazz age (note his shock after watching Mulholland Drive). The only modern director that F. appreciates is Woody Allen, we presume the reason being the use of jazz music in his pictures, his fascination with neurotic women (probably linked to the complicated relationship with his mother) and the similar personality traits with the author.

The same puritan attitude applies to his circle of friends and lifestyle. We can finally agree, that F. lies unthreatened, in his self-made bed of wine and roses, living in denial of reality.

His puritanism also extends to his romantic relationships. An example being his 10 years commitment to a “Blue Jasmine” kind of woman, someone who is nearly always putting on a pretence caused by insecurities about her fading beauty which are continuously emphasised by her need to be hidden from bright lights and her need for sexual admiration by men.

In this specific scenario, by puritanism, we mean F.’s need of comfort and stability, which was tragically provided by an uncomfortable and unstable woman.

After all, a golden cage of appearances, leaving F. (a man who finds catharsis in love) emotionally raw.

Current Symptoms/Behaviors: 

F. has recently came into contact with a young actress by the name of L. , a woman who’s not excellent at anything, but good at everything.

The gods threw the dice – L. found F. when she needed music in her life, and F. found L. when he needed cinema in his.

Just to put things into perspective; we might fairly describe L. as a fearless wonderer. An art time-traveller, an hedonist – opposed to puritan F.

Her open-mindedness at first enchanted our patient who soon became loving and a little over-exited, most recently showing signs of unassertiveness and fear (there’s only one fear and that is the fear of the unknown/ignorance).

It’s only logical to assume that the patient has been deeply moved by this free-spirited woman, artistically and emotionally.

Therefore, we categorise F.’s sudden change of behaviour as xenophobic.

The patient presents a subtle mix of fear and pleasure by the emblematic nature of this woman, an actress, a thief, who steals souls and makes them hers…who influences/contaminates F.’s puritan persona with art and kisses.

It’s with no doubt that we say that the patient is in a cloudy state-of-mind for the time being. This momentarily hesitation and perhaps scepticism could be translated into oblivion.

The patient has shown desire to drastic lifestyle changes – mostly to accommodate other’s visions, we’d assume. Changes which don’t fit at all with his nature.

We fear suicide.

Treatment:

Prozac – 20 mg once a day

Coffee – one New York mug a day

Cinema – one seance per week

Switch poems to prose

Substance Abuse Treatment History: 

None reported.

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From Russia with love

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Summer: most people are fainting under white and blue umbrellas on the beach, worshipping the sun and all the frivolity that comes with it.

Paris: Dali’s melting clock. An open-air oven, more than Sylvia Plath could ever dream of.

I’m fed-up of wearing ugly Birkenstocks and drink naturally mulled wine. The darkness of cinema, seems to be my only comfort, a spark of civilisation.

So, I just completely spontaneously booked a one week solo trip to Saint-Petersburg, Russia.

It might sound random to you, but an actress needs to draw inspiration from somewhere, sometimes.

(The picture above represents myself as zombie Anna Karenina back among the living to find her long lost love Count Alexis Kirillovich Vrosky)

I’ll stay away from train stations, maybe.

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Eugenia at the Movies

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After hours of painful labor Eugenia was born in 1897 in Florence, Italy. The daughter of a bronze pots dynasty, soon to be the disrepute of her family.

Years ago, when I was still a Londoner, I payed a seasonal visit to my dad’s in Milan. We had a classic pizza-movie night and the film in question was Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo (it’s about a Depression-era unhappily married ingénue who goes to the movies to watch the same film over and over again to escape her miserable life, until the film’s main character walks off the screen and what was a black and white dream becomes real…). “I knew someone like that, an obsessive-compulsive person…” dad says.

Eugenia was my father’s mother’s aunt. I never had the chance to look at pictures of her. I like to think she was petite, controversially boyish-looking for her era, maybe with asymmetrical eyebrows (like those ones of evil movie characters) but still intrinsically sensual.

They say she was precocious for her age. Some others say she was a prodigy. Her family aspected great things from her, even though that would just mean marrying a suitable man of good fortune.

By the time she became old enough to embrace the philosophy of nihilist European writers, the world was experiencing what was then the greatest invention of all: CINEMA.

Movie theatres were filled with what was then la crème de la crème of Florentine society. I would have liked to know what was the first picture Eugenia has ever seen, because that day, the day in which she stepped into a movie house for the first time, something spectacular must have happened. That day marked what was to become her passion, obsession and ultimately madness.

I don’t know what it is, this feeling. It’s Stendhal’s syndrome, maybe. A repulsion to reality after having experienced something of colossal beauty. It was probably just a moment of absolute limpidness. They say it’s natural to become mad as soon as the truth laughs in your face. A lightning bolt.

Eugenia became soon a cinephile. She couldn’t help herself. She would spend her days in picture houses stepping from one movie to the other, often watching the same one repeatedly, feeding herself with lavished silver images, starving herself from the rest of the world, like a junky. Once you get locked in drug addiction, the tendency is to push it even further. One obviously does it because the dullness of life is unbearable. There’s something incredibly gloomy and romantic about it. Lastly, why should it be wrong? Isn’t life about making oneself happy? It doesn’t matter how. Morals weren’t definitely her problem regardless.

Seasons changed, fashion changed, political circumstances changed. Eugenia, unaffected by it all, was now an habitué of movie theatres, so much that they didn’t let her pay for the tickets anymore. It was pointless.

She was quite infamous in town, everybody knew she was a lunatic, a pagan. She had the devil inside. Even the priest had lost faith because of her, he had abandoned his functions and moved back in the countryside, with his lover.

Eugenia didn’t appreciate social gatherings, she hardly ever spoke to her sisters. She would mostly communicate with grimaces, if she had to. Occasionally, she would show up in some café downtown and make a scene. She was popular for showing up drunk and jump on tea tables to dance barefoot. At that point, someone would bring her back home where her mother would be waiting crying, or pretending to.

One day, she found out she was pregnant. Her mother fainted, or pretended to. “It’s a disgrace, it’s a disgrace! What have I done wrong, dear Lord? What have I done?” her father would say frantically while walking up and down the baroque living room, booze in hand, “Who is going to marry you? Who? Charlie Chaplin?”.

Eugenia never married. As a matter of fact, she had no idea of who the father of her baby was, not that she cared. Actually, Charlie Chaplin wasn’t really her type, she must have preferred someone more virile and adventurous, maybe Douglas Fairbanks, or Rudolph Valentino.

Sound in films was already the norm. Eugenia remained silent for the rest of her life. She continued watching movies, neglecting everything else. Obsession, running through blood like poison.

Apparently, her daughter Gilda had inherited the same kind of obsessive compulsive behaviour. She was an avid reader, a book eater. She, in turn, had a son too, whom one day left to move to the promised land, America. It is said he has become a religious fanatic and has joined the Mormon Church.

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Quelle nuit!

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Monday 01:23 am: Finally back in my studio from what was an eventful week.

Sometimes I do feel like I’m 100 years old; that’s due to my crescendo ability to continuously attract events and situations, of any sort, that lead me to notable case scenarios. After all, situations make stories.

“She always wanted to be a story”, that’s what a scriptwriter friend wrote about my alter-ego in one of his shorts; we hear the “cowboys’ death bell” as she was reciting a verse from Sylvia Plath’s Complete Poetry Anthology, she leans to kiss her lover but they accidentally pull on something, a rope. Swish as nooses ride up their necks strangling them to death. The whole thing comes actually from a dream.

Gaze up to the sky. Cigarette. Dramatic look. City lights. Metro. Line 9. Line 13. Dramatic look. Just because…

I ask myself why I can’t keep my thoughts straight.

I write as bad as I think.

But then, there is CINEMA. It’s a very pleasant way to waste your life.

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Rue Champollion, 75005 Paris

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Cold fact: Paris has more movies showing at any one time than any other city in the world.  Cinema addicts come to Paris just to go to the movies! That may be because of the proliferation of tiny, independent cinemas.

Once upon a time…

There was a mythical place, between the Sorbonne and Notre Dame, where cinephiles reunite.

It’s an alley that welcomes some (if not most) of the greatest independent cinemas in Paris (if not the world). Three to be exact.

LE CHAMPO – ESPACE JAQUES-TATI

This arthouse cinema opened in 1938. Today, the two main screens replace what was once a bookshop and later a cabaret theatre. Home of important figures in the French cinema history, also described by Francois Truffaut as his “second university”.

The upstairs screen has a curious projection system: the projector is situated above the screen and depends on a periscope and a mirror at the rear of the theatre.

The program is quite vast and qualitative. Anything from German expressionism, Italian neorealism, dogme 95, film noir, new Hollywood, new wave, no wave, I’d say any sort of wave.

Also, there is a slightly shy guy with glasses at the box-office, working alongside with a woman who seems to be his mother (she’s in charge of checking the tickets at the screen’s entrance).  I surprised them a few times commenting on how people leave the auditorium, guessing, as a game, if they’ve been moved by the film or not, if so in which way, if they are a comedy or drama types. They are so adorable I never dared to speak with them, I feel it would ruin the fun.

REFLET MEDICIS 

Opened in 1964;  it shows all kind of classics and indie movies but with a particular attention to international releases of difficult programmation (less than 10 copies) as well as hosting small film festivals from all around.

(They also have their own monthly magazine).

There’s a wooden bench just outside the door, which is a magnet for absent-minded curiously dressed old people I’d love to photograph.

FILMOTHEQUE DU QUARTIER LATIN

Opened in 1966; this two screens cinema (screen Marilyn in red and screen Audrey in blue) is also the house of international festivals, retrospectives and restored classics with a shameless favouritism for Italian cinema (anything from neorealism, commedia all’italiana, giallo to spaghetti western).

It’s illegal how cozy the peluche seats are in the Audrey screen. Just the other night I was there to watch a funny Alberto Sordi movie, there was this woman, sitting next to me, who could not stop giggling. I feared the worse, for her.

If only I could light in a cigarette, I would love these cinemas a little bit more.

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