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Pearl Review – Ti West’s wacky Technicolor homage to old Hollywood

WWith its lush, lushly sprawling score, saturated Technicolor photographs, and kitschy smudge edits, Ti Wests pearl would be a dead ringer for a 1940s melodrama if it weren’t for all the ax violence and pitchfork skewering. A prequel to West’s previous picture, X, it was co-written with star Mia Goth during a Covid quarantine period. The result of this clash of twisted minds is a delightfully wacky homage to old Hollywood. West combines witty cinematic skills with a flair for explosive bursts of deranged bloodshed. Just call him Douglas Sirk-opath.

The year is 1918. World War I is raging and a flu pandemic is claiming victims on the home front. But Pearl (a phenomenal goth) has big dreams, well beyond her life of joyless toil on her parents’ farm in rural Texas. She wants to dance and plans to make her way out of Texas and break into the adoration and stardom of the film. When she learns about an audition at the local church, she realizes this is her chance to escape her overbearing mother once and for all.

The full-blooded, gleefully garish tone of filmmaking requires a outsized effort to match, and Goth is more than up to the job. She peels away the character’s skin and fills her with feline cruelty and the creeping rot of madness, all topped by a monstrous, distorting need to be loved. Goth is entertaining throughout, but two specific scenes, in which the camera rests solely on her face for an extended shot, capture the full force of her grueling talent.

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