An early scene in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Phantom Thread uses scent to communicate the motivations of a weird trio of characters. Daniel Day Lewis is Reynolds Woodcock, an uptight, obsessive, upper class dressmaker. He has brought young waitress, Alma (Vicky Krieps) back to his country cottage after a romantic dinner, and is getting busy measuring her in her slip. He’s lining her up as his latest muse / sort-of-girlfriend / discardable plaything.
His severe older sister Cyril (Lesley Manville – business manager of House of Woodcock, also manager of Reynolds’ romances) whisks in and interrupts:
“And who is this lovely creature making the house smell so nice?”
“Hello, I’m Alma.” “I’m Cyril.”
Sniffs: “Sandalwood and rose water. Hmm, sherry… and… lemon juice?”
“Mm, mm-hmm, we had fish for dinner.”
Cyril has an excellent nose, a head for business, and a beady eye on her brother. Alma has trailed scent through the house, signalling her arrival and seductive intent.
IThe FT called this film ‘gorgeously sickly’. I am not sure I enjoyed it. I loved the music, most of the fashion, the cinematography of rainy cobbled streets and velvet-lined London restaurants, the actors are excellent. But I got bored watching yet another film centred on a powerful man behaving like a total C-word supposedly justified because a) he’s a genie-yus, and b) he’s got ish-yous.
(Spoiler: virtually everyone in the known world has ish-yous).
For those who enjoy this sort of thing, here’s a one hour ASMR loop of DDL measuring Vicky Krieps’ breasts.