Category Archives: Art Cinema

FILM REVIEW: The Lighthouse (Eggers, 2019)

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Lighthouse Poster

Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe star as two lightkeepers, Ephraim Winslow and Thomas Wake, trying to survive and maintain their sanity on a mysterious island while living at a remote, New England lighthouse in the 1890s, in The Lighthouse, directed by Robert Eggers (The Witch). Evoking such seafaring literary classics by Herman Mehlville (Moby Dick) and Ernest Hemingway (Old Man and the Sea) as the film opens with an almost square aspect ratio (1.19:1) harkening back to early cinema. The effect is at once claustrophobic and mysteriously out of place.

In a traditional narrative fashion, the characters are introduced and established. Winslow, a strapping, mysterious, young man of few words and who appears to have a troubled past claiming a work history as a Canadian lumberjack is the hired help (wickie) under contract for four weeks with hopes of moving up the ladder and someday hoping to become a lighthouse operator like his housemate Wake, a salty, crusty archetypal seaman. Wake comes across as an experienced sea hand with knowledge of sailor life and mythology who has the inexplicable behavior of farting loudly much to Winlow’s chagrin. Moreover, Wake treats Winslow harshly despite Winlsow’s unswerving dedication to carrying out the chores, emptying chamber pots and swabbing the floor repeatedly to Wake’s unending condemnation.

The two work together, sleep together and eat together. Winslow refrains from alcohol until a storm begins pounding the lighthouse. Together the two imbibe, dance, sing and became Marry. Soon, however, a darkness creeps in and the two men vie for control of the lighthouse. Also, Wake refuses Winslow access to the lantern room atop the lighthouse. Intrigued a jealous Winslow begins spying on Wake’s ritualistic time in front of the massive light bulb and becomes infatuated with Wake’s unearthly obsession. The two lighthouse keepers engage in an escalating battle of wills in a tension-fed, trapped scenario with mysterious forces, real or imagined, looming while a seemingly never-ending storm rages outside, leaving the men stranded.

Eggers uses several crew members from The Witch including cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, production designer Craig Lathrop, costume designer Linda Muir, composer Mark Korven, and editor, Louise Ford, to transport the audience into a realm of terrifying unknown. The cinematography is nothing short of spectacular as the lighting and framing create a sense of the paranormal. And, the production design along with the costuming transports the viewer, via the suspension of disbelief, into the time of the 1890s capturing the harshness of the film’s setting. Furthermore, Pattinson and DaFoe play off of each other very well. But, in my opinion, the attention to detail with the sound design including foghorn, seagulls, waves, machinery, and furnace, lend strong credence to the film’s reality.

The stormy night is when the film goes into warp drive and provides a catalyst for all the odd and unusual behavior to come alive and take over the film’s consciousness. Eggers’s use of black and white allows for the utmost effect in facial lines and scene shadowing. These scenes have a supernatural, expressionistic appearance as the film delves into insanity. What emerges is a tragic Greek myth (it begins with a capital P). Highly recommended!

 

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Film Review: Phantom Thread (Anderson, 2017): USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Paul Thomas Anderson’s (There Will Be Blood, Punch Drunk Love, The Master) latest addition to an already strong body of work lifts his art and craft to a higher level with the film, Phantom Thread. Starring standout British actor (though he resides in New York) and three-time, Leading Actor Academy Award Winner, Daniel Day-Lewis, as a fastidious and renowned, 1950′ British dressmaker, Reynolds Woodcock, Phantom Thread is essentially a traditional romantic piece delivering a sweet twist.

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Daniel Day-Lewis and Lesley Manville as Reynolds Woodcock and his sister, Cyril, in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread.

In addition to Day-Lewis, up-and-coming actress Vicky Krieps (Pitter Patter Goes My Heart) holds her own and then some as Day-Lewis’s onscreen counterpart, Alma, a waitress who first becomes Woodcock’s mistress and eventually his wife. Throughout the film Alma is portrayed  as Woodcock’s undoubted muse and unrelinquished lover. In addition to Krieps and Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread features the talented and award winning British stage and screen actress, Lesley Manville (Another Year, Topsy-Turvy) as Reynolds’ icy sister, Cyril. Cyril is the business manager of the dressmaking House of Woodcock. All three deliver mesmerizing acting performances as a sorted macabre triumvirate. Day-Lewis, considered by many to be the greatest living actor and known for his role-immersive approach to acting, made an announcement this would be his last film due to being overly straught emotionally with sadness from his work in Phantom Thread.

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Phantom Thread Director, Paul Thomas Anderson.

Anderson, an American filmmaker, wrote, directed and, is also listed as Director Of Photography, (uncredited) on IMDb. Anderson delivers an exquisite Phantom Thread mise-en-scene aided immensely by Mark Tildesley’s lovely production design brings to fruition the 1950’s London interior. Johnny Greenwood delivers a composite musical score augmenting the delicate moments the film offers up while affectively accentuating the darker moments. Along with Day-Lewis and Manville, both Greenwood and Tildesley hail from Great Britain.

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Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread.

However, the real treat of the film is to watch Day-Lewis channel Woodcock’s couturier passion and artistry. Woodcock has developed a habit, steeped in female superstition, of stitching secret messages into his creations. Taught by his mother and with an astute attention to detail and uncompromising approach to design, Woodcock creates original masterpieces reflecting his commitment and energy. One especially charged scenes has Woodcock, in pursuit, creating a dress for Alma as part of the romantic courtship process. Before becoming Mrs. Woodcock, Alma would first become a fashion model and a integral part of Woodcock’s stable of seamstresses under the watchful eye of Woodcock and his sister, Cyril.

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Daniel Day-Lewis, left, and Vicky Krieps in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread

While Phantom Thread lacks a traditional Hollywood narrative structure, it stands proudly on its own as an art cinema film. Anderson’s stylistic choices include a non-linear narrative structure employing the use of flashback. One technique I found particularly interesting is his crafty use of the journalistic interview. The ambiguous ending left not a trace of doubt to the film’s art cinema characteristics and trademark values. As for the director’s intent, I speculate some self-reflexivity with the director’s first two initials, P.T., being the first letters in the film’s title, Phantom Thread. Anderson’s long-time (since 2001), relationship partner is actress and comedian, Maya Rudolph.

While Phantom Thread may be difficult for some to follow due to its non-linear structure, it delivers an exquisite reflection on the art of romantic relationship through a 1950’s London dressmaker vehicle. The film’s run time is a little heavy at 130 minutes. Yet, it is not tiring. Rather, it is majestic. One of the year’s best films. Highly recommended.