Impression: Paul Thomas Anderson movies are so strange. They always seem to be about a power struggle between two strong personalities. This one is no exception. It starts off as a relatively normal, pretty engaging period piece with a love story. Granted, something always feels a bit off. Then, about half way through, the signature power struggle begins.
Woodcock is a designer and master tailor sought after by royalty and the elite for his exquisite dresses. He is consumed by his work. This is another theme which very much runs through Anderson’s work, complete obsession with one’s work. He also has a strange relationship to women. He gets obsessed with them, tires of them as soon as they demand any of his attention that he doesn’t bestow on them freely, and then he has his sister dispose of them. (Not literally 🙂 just inform them that he is dumping them).
He meets Alma and the attraction is instant. but she has strong opinions of her own. Finally here is a match for him, she doesn’t just bend her will to match his desires, she has opinions and will of her own and is not afraid to use it. But their relationship gets more and more strange as the film progresses. She finds more and more disturbing ways of asserting her control over him. Which he apparently knows and approves of. Even though it could cost him his life.
Visually, Anderson pays as much attention to detail to the details of his film as Woodcock does to his dresses. The cinematography is impeccable. So much so, that it makes you wonder if some of the traits of his main character are based on himself. The acting is also top notch. But then, I have never seen Daniel Day-Lewis make a wrong move. Even if I didn’t like a movie he was in, his acting has always been spot on. I really think he is the best actor working today. Vicky Krieps looks a bit like a young Meryl Streep, and is understated for most of the film, but does well to hold her own against him in the more dramatic scenes.
In all, it’s a movie worth seeing. I always leave Anderson’s films with this strange sense of unease and like I am not taking away everything he meant for an audience to take away. Similarly here. I still think There Will Be Blood is my favorite of his movies.
Facts: A very rigid and structured life of a famous dressmaker and womanizer is changed by a new muse and lover.
My Buddhist reading: I am really thrown for a loop here. I guess, some of the message in here is that people create worlds of their own making and exert them onto those around them, but even controlling every little detail of your life won’t necessarily make you happy.