'Pearl' Review – Venice Film Festival – Deadline

‘Pearl’ Review – Venice Film Festival – Deadline

What happens to Pearl? A lot, as it turns out in Ti West’s awfully nice postscript to her spring release. X, which saw a 1970s film crew brutally confront an elderly farmer and his wife while shooting a porn movie in their barn. Unusually for a horror movie, X had the same actress, Mia Goth, as the final kill (psychotic farmer’s wife Pearl) and the final girl (sex-movie star Maxine), and this clever, not to mention almost indecently rushed, prequel explains why. .

PearlScreening out of competition at the Venice Film Festival, it’s that rare continuation of the horror franchise that, while taking into account the expectations of the mainstream gore audience of its predecessor, has considered new and inventive ways to delve into the essence of the original.

First, a quick digression on the appeal of X and Ti West films in general: West has an almost forensic control over what a period genre film should look like, a talent that was most unabashedly on display in 2009’s creepy video-nasty pastiche. devil’s houseand more subtly in Jim Jones’ chilling 2013 naturalist the sacrament. But West also updates while he ponders, and X does a very effective job of reminding us that the 1970s was a time of schism: in that first wave of splatter movies, the killers were often prudish, sexless, and resentful of the permissive younger generation, a complex that was actually more representative of the conservative film industry of the time than real life. The swinging stars of X However, they find their match in the sexually rapacious Pearl, a darkly playful subversion of the vengeful uptight old woman stereotype established by Psychopath.

PearlSo, it’s an origin story, explaining, with darkly amusing inevitability, how the naive soldier’s wife with Hollywood in her sights tried to escape a cloying life on her family’s farm only to end up there. It begins in 1918, in the midst of the Spanish flu pandemic, but the style is 1930s Depression-era escapism, as Pearl dreams of life as a silver-screen ballerina while stuck at home with her strict German mother (Tandi Wright) and a crippled father (Matthew Sunderland) who watches events with an icy terror worthy of Emile Zola. teresa raquín (or Park Chan-wook Thirstfor a more recent reference).

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Pearl sings and dances for the farm animals, names Charlie and Mary after her favorite United Artist silent movie stars, and on a trip into town to buy morphine for her father, she sneaks off to a movie theater where she has an encounter with her affable projectionist (David Corenswet) opens up the possibility of a new bohemian lifestyle.

These scenes reveal interesting parallels with X: The projectionist shows Pearl explicit singles movies from France, and for a moment it looks like Pearl might go on the same journey the naïve Maxine went on in X, pursuing their sexual freedom in Europe. Clearly, and it’s not a spoiler to say, that can’t happen, as she’s not going anywhere as we know from the setup.

Yet West’s film continues to highlight Pearl’s obsession with movie stardom while also showing the impossibility of it happening (the seemingly random alligator in X is brought back to emphasize this at crucial and juicy moments), but the clincher is a fantastically escalated tantrum that reaches a crescendo when Pearl yells at her mother, “You don’t know what I’m capable of!” Yet she does, and that might be the creepiest scene in the entire movie.

There really aren’t a lot of comparisons for Pearlas this is usually flashback or subtext material, but the notion of madness and frustrated lives taps into an interesting subgenre, particularly the plethora of “hagsploitation” movies that followed. What happened to Baby Jane? in 1962.

Pearl’s dance ambitions also come with a heady twist of What’s wrong with Helen? (1971), a whodunit set in the 1930s starring Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters. That film was directed by Curtis Harrington, a Hollywood anomaly whose magnificent career memoir, Nice guys don’t work in Hollywoodverifies the names of Kenneth Anger, Roger Corman and The Colbys — a reminder that an arthouse crossover with grand guignol is nothing new, just like Pearl it reminds us that pornography has been around since the invention of the camera. In fact, the history of cinema is always on the screen, in Douglas Sirkian’s seductive colors, in the exuberant and sincere Max Steiner-esque score, and in the editing with the old-school use of wipes and irises. -outs.

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But for all this to work Pearl it needs a star, and it has one in Goth, whose powerful performance elevates what could easily be a cartoon villain.

It’s hard to explain how he does it, but what starts out as a golly-gee channeling of The Wizard of Oz‘s Dorothy slowly unravels, culminating in a heartbreaking confession to Pearl’s absent husband that we see in a riveting one-shot close-up. It will be interesting to see where Pearl takes her next; Meanwhile, this might be the most committed female performance in a horror comedy since Kathleen Turner in serial mombut one given permission to go much, much deeper emotionally into the Far from the sky of slashers.

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