Phantom Thread is set to be one of 2018's must-see movie experiences, for a number of reasons. Billed as Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis' final movie, it reunites him with celebrated director Paul Thomas Anderson, with whom he worked on searing historical drama There Will Be Blood back in 2007.
Truthfully, the release of a new movie from Anderson is reason enough to celebrate. No mere filmmaker, Anderson has throughout his career sculpted astonishing images of beauty, terror and flat-out surrealism that remain lodged in our minds. With Phantom Thread just under a month from release, we're recapping several of Anderson's most unforgettable moments.
1. The opening of Boogie Nights (1997)
This groovy, racy drama is adapted from Anderson's mockumentary short film The Dirk Diggler Story, itself inspired by the exploits of infamous porn star John Holmes.
A breakout Mark Wahlberg stars as naive, well-endowed actor Dirk, leading man in a 1970s pornographic movie, who becomes absorbed into the film's behind-the-scenes 'family' unit. Presided over by paternal figure Jack Horner (an Oscar nominated Burt Reynolds), the crew also includes such misfits as cuckolded 'Little' Bill Thompson (William H. Macy), Horner's wife (and leading lady) Maggie aka 'Amber Waves' (Julianne Moore) and 'Roller Girl' (Heather Graham).
The latter character first swerves into view during the movie's majestic opening tracking shot, nothing less than a seamless immersion in 70s disco culture and an introduction to many of the movie's main players. Anderson has never shied away from the stylish influence of Goodfellas filmmaker Martin Scorsese, and his enthusiasm is on full display here.
2. The raining frogs sequence from Magnolia (1999)
Anderson stepped up his level of ambition and visual poetry in this challenging, multi-stranded ensemble piece. Magnolia acts as a tapestry of the human experience in all its funny, grotesque and often upsetting glory, with standout performances from Tom Cruise as a misogynist self-help guru and Julianne Moore as an embittered trophy wife whose much older husband Earl (Jason Robards) is dying.
It all culminates in one of Anderson's strangest sequences as a multitude of frogs rain down from the sky, a likely reference to Bible Exodus 8:2: "If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs." Theories rage as to what the scene ultimately means, but what makes the scene even weirder is the characters seem to accept the occurence as normality.
In fact it's used to move the story forward: suicidal Linda, for example, is picked up by an ambulance, which then crashes as the frogs rain down. Although she ultimately survives, the whole scenario encapsulates the movie's themes of fate and chance. Or, you know, it could mean something else entirely.
3. The stranded harmonium from Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Three years passed before Anderson tackled his next project, which arose out of a desire to both work with Adam Sandler and make a movie at a pacy 90 minutes long.
The result is the utterly charming, off-the-wall Punch-Drunk Love, almost certainly the sweetest of Anderson's movies although it's still laced with plenty of his characteristic anger and darkness. This largely stems from Sandler's terrific performance as Barry, the isolated owner of a toilet plunger company with anger management issues, who is exploiting a loophole in a coupon offer to earn frequent flyer miles.
Stick with us because the movie really is terrific, hinging on his unexpected romance with the affable Lena (Emily Watson) who helps him grow as a person. Even so, the movie's dysfunctional atmosphere and casual surrealism is best summed up in the opening moments when a harmonium is thrown from a truck and abandoned in the street, prompting Barry to take it in and attempt a repair.
It's quintessential Anderson, exploring the unexpected directions of everyday life. Plus, there's a lovely soundtrack from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind composer Jon Brion.
4. The burning oil derricks from There Will Be Blood (2007)
Another five years elapsed between Punch-Drunk Love and its ferocious successor There Will Be Blood, and the latter's subsequent eruption of darkness is akin to a burst of oil from the bowels of the Earth.
Loosely influenced by propaganda writer Upton Sinclair's Oil!, Anderson's turn of the 20th century epic gives a plum role to a fearsome Daniel Day-Lewis as ruthless prospector Daniel Plainview. Amidst America's oil boom the country and its riches are his for the taking, the movie tracing Plainview's rise from hardscrabble miner to a deeply evil man who has gorged on wealth whilst his own sense of personal morality has eroded to nothing.
Beautifully shot by cinematographer Robert Elswit, the movie's eye-catching landscapes find their centre in the burning oil derricks, startling imagery that nudges the movie closer to the realm of the apocalyptic epic.
Even so it's the madness reflected in Day-Lewis' eyes (accompanied by Jonny Greenwood's score) that really chills us to the bone – little wonder he won his second Oscar for the part.
5. The processing scene from The Master (2012)
The human face is the arresting centrepiece of this troubling scene. The actor in question is the mercurial, animalistic Joaquin Phoenix who taps into unsettling areas of his psyche as alcoholic war veteran Freddie Quell. Stranded in the post-World War II environment of North America, Freddie falls in with charismatic cult leader Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his very essence is soon put under the microscope.
Anderson's mysterious, lengthy drama proved divisive with its array of inscrutable characters and slow-burning atmosphere. Nevertheless it demonstrates his capacity for casting the greatest actors for his characters, and Phoenix' rampaging loner is more than enough to hold the attention. It proves that Anderson is capable of rendering the human visage as its own kind of captivating landscape.
6. Doc and Shasta from Inherent Vice (2015)
Jettisoning any kind of coherent storyline, this rambling adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's stoner private eye novel is one of Anderson's most challenging movies so far.
Enveloping audiences in the hazy period between the end of the Summer of Love and the onset of the conspiracy-ridden 1970s, the movie drifts along on a bed of miscreant weirdos. Chief among them is Joaquin Phoenix' impressively mutton chopped detective Larry 'Doc' Sportello, a missing person's investigator who spends just as much time getting high and receiving visits from his ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston).
The scenes between Phoenix and Waterston sum up the movie's approach in a nutshell: woozy, darkly comic and shot through with a genuine love for the period setting. (More props to cinematographer Robert Elswit who nails the grainy look of films made at the time.) The neon-infused opening sequence as Doc walks Shasta to her car is the perfect reflection of this.