Writer director Paul Thomas Anderson, to use an overused trope, is, for me, a simpler man, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

For some critics and film devotees, he is regarded as the greatest American director living. Okay.

We’ve seen his fuming “There Will Be Blood;” the incredibly absurd, boring and overwrought “The Master;” the amusing and quirky “Inherent Vice,” saved only by Joaquin Phoneix’s “Big Lebowski” performance as P.I. “Doc.”

Now we come to his latest, “Phantom Thread,” which features, allegedly, the final screen performance of one of our greatest, most versatile actors, Daniel Day-Lewis.

“Phantom” is a much too long 130 minutes, but gorgeously photographed, expertly directed, splendidly acted and breathtakingly wardrobed. Perhaps I should end there?

It gives us Lewis as Reynolds Jeremiah Woodcock, a legendary fashion designer, who creates astonishing clothing for Europe’s most fabulous women.

Reynolds is a tall, middle-aged, handsome mama’s boy and a majestic narcissist. He seems to be tortured by the loss of his mother (Emma Clandon), who on occasion, mutely haunts his fevered dreams.

Reynolds, ever aware of his genius, runs the famed house of Woodcock with his iron pants sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), a kind of stoic Nurse Ratched, who controls her brother’s legions of seamstresses with ice cold efficiency.

From the start, film buffs will smell some hint of Hitchcock’s Mrs. Danvers, Max De Winter and “Rebecca.” Ignore the scent. Hitchcock, nowhere as good a director as Anderson, was at least more fun.

We know this about Woodcock, from the opening scene at breakfast. He’s a world class a–hole. I mean, this fellow has issues that would give Freud migraines.

Our hero runs through “assistant” mistresses like sketching pencils and tosses them aside like crumpled notes.

He has just dispatched his latest live-in, and on a weekend visit at the seashore, suggested by his sister, picks up another — Alma (Vicky Krieps), a plain, shy, timid cafe waitress who recognizes him at once and, with apparently hidden skills of underplayed seduction, works her way into his life.

Krieps, new to this reviewer, is one of those actors who seems to be doing nothing while doing everything. We will soon learn that Alma is quite unlike all the other disposables of his astounding life.

Alma, we will come to see, has a darker, firmer side to her sweet and demure self, and once in the House of Woodcock has no intention of leaving. Watching how she manages her hold is one of the fun parts of a not so much fun story.

I came, like so many others, not for Anderson but to see Daniel Day-Lewis’ farewell to the screen. I was not disappointed, and neither will you be. His Woodcock, like his “Lincoln,” is splendidly carved and polished. The old Hollywood cliche “the camera loves him” certainly applies to Lewis. He knows his angles, hits his marks and shifts his body and face to place them perfectly into each frame, so that he, and he alone, owns that frame and each one to follow.

It’s fun to watch how he stands motionlessly for painfully long moments (that’s called scene stealing) and then glides about, peering knowledgeably over his glasses at small details, while Anderson’s camera silently swoops in like a dragon fly, caressing Lewis’ long fingers, cheek bones, aquiline nose and piercing eyes.

With one or two moves, Reynolds finally stands back like a painter, chin in hand, and then simply, without a word, walks away.

You don’t hear the assistants or Alma gasp, but, knowing they’re in the presence of greatness, you can be sure they do.

Lesley Manville, as Woodcock’s sister Cyril, has little to do but fix everyone in her chilling, controlling gaze, but oh my, she does it well.

The unseen heroes of “Phantom” include Johnny Greenwood’s tinkly piano music, Veronique Melery’s wonderful sets and, above all, Mark Bridges’s costumes. Bridges must have personally spent hours selecting Lewis’s scene-by-scene wardrobe changes. I hope Daniel got to keep it all.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and film actor.

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