Phantom Thread is the new movie from writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, one that reunites him with his There Will Be Blood star Daniel Day-Lewis. In the movie, Day-Lewis plays Reynolds Woodcock, a dedicated, talented and widely respected dressmaker in 1950s London. A confirmed bachelor solely focused on his work, he one day meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), a woman who throws all that for a loop.
Alma becomes not just his lover but his muse, the focus of his continued work. That’s a change that doesn’t always sit well with Reynolds’ sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), who helps him manage his business and reputation. And his relationship with Alma isn’t always easy, as everyone must adjust to the changes love can bring into your life.
It’s a simple image on the first poster, just Lewis’ designer craning his head to inspect and admire the dress being worn by the woman standing in front of him. There’s no copy or plot explanation or anything else, just that striking visual.
The second poster reverses things, showing a full show of Krieps as Alma, decked out in a fancy gown. Looming behind her is the head of Woodcock, clearly positioned as the power or at least someone who’s hovering over her every action and choice.
We meet Woodcock as the trailer starts as he goes about his garment business and talks about sowing things into the lining of the clothes he made. He meets Alma and things change for him, inspiring him and providing him an outlet for his visions. Eventually tension emerges and the relationship isn’t nearly as idyllic as it initially seems.
What’s on display here is one part gothic romance and one part psychological drama. The performances are measured and careful and stoic, befitting the subject matter. There’s only the barest outline of an actual story that’s shared. Instead it’s more about visuals and style.
There was another short trailer that announced early screenings in select cities, with the focus being on the relationship between Woodcock and Reynolds and featuring a conversation between the two against footage from the film.
Online and Social
Focus Features’ official website for the movie opens with the trailer, which is worth watching again to fully appreciate Anderson’s cinematic eye. After that the top page of the site has full-screen video with buttons to buy tickets or find showtimes as well as links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
Scroll down the page and there’s an “About” section with a synopsis where the names of the actors and director are helpfully linked to their respective IMDb profiles. That’s actually about it, with no further information or content available. That’s a bit surprising, but maybe indicative of the secretive – or at least non-effusive – nature of the filmmakers.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing I’m aware of. There may have been some advertising done in the markets the movie is initially opening in, but I haven’t found anything
Media and Publicity
After months of being referred to by codenames and such, Focus Features finally revealed the movie’s name about two months out from release. A while after the first trailer debuted Anderson finally spoke about the movie, talking about working with Lewis again, how long he’s been working on the project and more.
In a feature interview/profile, Lewis spoke about not just this movie but about his decision to retire (for the moment) from acting and what lead him to that point. He also spoke about the process of learning just what goes into designing fashion (also mentioned by costume designer Mark Bridges), which was much more complicated than he anticipated, though it’s the kind of research and rigor he often puts into preparing for any role. He also spoke about the inspiration for the story.
Many of those same topics were covered by Lewis and Anderson at a Q&A following a screening of the movie where they also talked about working together again.
Anderson continued to lead much of the publicity campaign. An interview with Rolling Stone covered why he felt he had to make this movie and what kind of story he was trying to tell as well as working with Day-Lewis again and how they collaborated on the writing to a great degree. A GQ profile covered the persona the director has built up over the last couple decades as well as the making of this film.
You’re certainly not going to woo audiences looking for a bit of holiday escapism with this campaign. But that’s not the point. Instead, the goal here is to turn out the high-minded cinema enthusiasts who are going to be eager for not just the latest film from Anderson, who’s seen as an unconventional and original filmmaker, but what’s apparently the last performance from Day-Lewis.
Everything about the campaign is just as high-minded and artisanal (sorry) as the dresses and gowns Woodcock creates in the story. The whole thing has an air of exclusivity that is in keeping with the story, as well as the credentials of the filmmakers. No one here is known for doing shoddy, standard work and the marketing is designed to convey the “prestige” message clearly to the audience looking for something a bit more…exclusive.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.