The Limits of Control

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Paul Thomas Anderson is one of my all time favorite directors. So when I heard that Phantom Thread was the film that ultimately made Daniel Day Lewis quit acting, I had to see it.

By the time I got around to seeing the film, it was only showing at 10:15am. I don’t think I’ve ever been to the theater before noon. Of course Black Panther was playing in two theaters at 23 different showtimes. 

It’s sad. It appears that from here on out, Daniel Plainview and Reynolds Woodcock are no match for Captain America and Wonder Woman. And I get it. Big budget movies are about making as much money as possible, and there are a lot of Marvel fans out there. Not to mention an endless stockpile of comics from which to mine more stories about superheroes in goofy outfits. 

Anyway, Phantom Thread is awesome. DD Lewis is a twelfth degree black belt ninja at the peak of his craft. So is PT Anderson. And he’s only 46 -- my age, which is crazy to consider. Apparently he directed and also manned the camera for much of this shoot, which was also cool to see.

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It’s an achingly beautiful film about the need to control, and how people react when they lose that control. It’s also about making art, and the sacrifices that can require. I could certainly relate to the breakfast scenes, being annoyed by loud chewing / crunching / clanking that goes unnoticed by my wife and daughters. At several points I laughed out loud, mostly because Woodcock’s need to control his surroundings is something that I can definitely relate to.

If I’m stressed or anxious, which is usually when I’m feeling overloaded with work / family / money worries, I get hyper sensitive to sound. Furthermore, as a photographer, I’m constantly trying to make order out of the natural visual chaos that exists all around me, all the time. It’s like I’m always taking pictures with my eyes instead of a camera, and it is really hard to turn that off, which can be exhausting. I’m getting better at recognizing this, and working on it through meditation and self care. A lot of the work has to do with letting go.

Woodcock is an asshole to most of the people that surround him. And in that way I don’t think I’m like him. At least I hope not. But I get it. I understand him. And as the film eventually reveals — sometimes the way to truly control everything is to understand that you have to let go of controlling everything.