It’s easy to see why Martin Scorsese enjoyed Ti West’s Pearl: from the lyrical opening credits sequence to the haunting iris out, the film is tailor made to appeal to cinephiles. Every aspect of the production screams Old Hollywood, from the sweeping orchestral score to the rich cinematography, which favors a vibrant palette evocative of Technicolor (the reds, in particular, practically radiate off the screen). Even the perfectly blue sky resembles the painted backdrop of a studio soundstage.
This nostalgic atmosphere, of course, stands in stark contrast to the movie’s disturbing content; while the surface-level visuals borrow heavily from The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, and The Red Shoes, the story and themes share more in common with Blood Feast, Friday the 13th, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The title character, after all, has the misfortune of living in America during the tail end of both World War I and the Spanish influenza pandemic; it’s only natural that her escapist fantasies should be just as violent as the reality that she inhabits.
This deliberate dissonance between style and substance creates a darkly comic tone (which definitely skews towards the “dark” side of the spectrum) that I found absolutely captivating. I’ve yet to see X, the first installment in the soon-to-be trilogy to which Pearl serves as the middle chapter; I plan to remedy that in very short order.
Oh, and a quick public service announcement: stick around after the end credits. There’s a brief but tantalizing teaser that puts Marvel’s recent stingers to shame.