From the moment the first trailer for Pearl was posted, tied on to Ti West's stylish A24 horror film X, it became evident that the film was a satire of a wide range of Hollywood history, from the 1930s classic The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind to 1950s melodramas like Douglas Sirks Imitation of Life and All That Heaven Allows.
West told Polygon that there was another, less immediately obvious, thread that shaped Pearls' visual style and narrative tone: classic Disney films.
Pearl has this sort of naivete that I've never seen before, except its much darker and more demented, according to West. That became an interesting jumping-off point.
The prequel Pearl to Xtrilogy and the newly announced sequel MaXXine are pastiches of Hollywood classics. X is set in the 1970s and draws visually and narratively from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and its followers. MaXXine, West, will be set in the 1980s and inspired by the 80s VHS boom, as the grainy look and tracking lines suggest.
Pearl, on the other hand, is meant to evoke Disney's early era and the age of classical musicals, although it isnt a musical itself. West claims that he and his team did not look to any one particular film or era for visual inspiration, as they did with X.
The Red Shoes is a 1948 British ballet drama that's more general, according to the author. There may have been a few movies I studied with Eliot Rockett, the DP, or Tom [Hammock, the production designer, that were more technical. Like we could have studied the film The Red Shoes, which was made in 1948, but we didn't really watch them as [to copy].
The whole trilogy, according to West, is designed to highlight the craft of filmmaking, which has an influence on both the narrative the protagonists of these films are obsessed with becoming film stars, and the way West frames, designs, and shoots the film.
Pearl has nothing to do with that. It's more about wonder and hope and ambition than X. It's taking place 60 years earlier.
West claims that the Disney effects in the film aren't meant to depict Pearl's mental state as much as their fantasies about the future she would like to live would lead her to the same brutal acts of murder and chaos as in X.
The experience she receives in the film, according to him, is not what she desires to be. The world [of the movies stylistic parody] is what she believes it is like where she wants to be. [It] became about ensuring we had lots of primary colors. It was a pleasure to do it.
Pearl will be released in cinemas on September 16th.