VENICE, Italy (TN) — TI West had a wild idea.
It was the year of the pandemic and his 1970s slasher “X” was a Few films were allowed to go into production due to low COVID-19 numbers in New Zealand. He was talking to his star Mia Goth—who plays the dual roles of a young porn star, Maxine, and a murderous old woman, Pearl, in “X”—and had an idea: what if they made just two movies while were they there?
The idea isn’t unusual for a major franchise based on known intellectual property, but for an independent horror that didn’t shoot a single frame, it was bold, to say the least. It won’t even be a sequel, but a prequel about Pearl in her youth.
“I’m like, well, they’re never going to go for it,” West said at the Venice Film Festival last week. However, to his immense surprise, he did.
The result, “Pearl,” which premiered in Venice and opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, falls on its title character as a teenager in 1918. She dreams of being in the movies, but remains attached to her family’s Texas farm. Her strict, German mother and ailing father, until she finds a sliver of hope at an upcoming audition for a dance company.
“I was just interested in making a children’s film, for lack of a better period, that has a more nuanced adult story,” said West sitting next to the Goths at a cottage in Alberto Quattro Fontaine on the Lido.
Goth, in a stylish and serious black corset ensemble, looks to the world away from the wide-eyed farmgirl with a pitchfork and a dream she portrays in “Pearl”.
The film is a candy-colored ode to the Technicolor classics of Hollywood’s golden age, from “The Wizard of Oz” to “Singin’ in the Rain,” but with carnage and blood. Touchstones ranged from Disney cartoons to Max O’Fuls.
There was a “cheap” version that West was set to make, which would have been shot in black and white, an homage to Ingmar Bergman’s films, but the A24 came out of “The Lighthouse” and there were a few others floating around. Black-and-white projects, and the studio encouraged a color version.
“There was an interesting film out there,” he said. “Either way, it was going to be a rich cinematic pastiche. I said, ‘I’m just offering a cheaper version.’ And they were like, ‘No, no, no. Make a better version.'”
Goth also received co-credits as screenwriter, which was a new experience for the “Suspiria” and “High Life” actor.
“I never even considered writing my own script,” Goth said. “I didn’t know if I would be able to help or contribute in any meaningful, meaningful way.”
But he accepted the challenge. For her writing sessions, Goth would set a timer and write things down in a stream of consciousness that she would then send to the West in drafts.
“To me, she was too ambitious and likely to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Goth said. “I think if he had better opportunities, life would be very different.”
Working on the script eventually helped her feel more connected to the words on the page, which culminated in the big finale: an emotional seven-minute monologue from Pearl that West wanted to shoot in one go.
“That was the last day of our shoot,” Goth said. “It was a lot of pressure because I knew Tiwari wanted to do it in one take. I didn’t want to mess up or stumble on my lines. And I never went to drama school. It’s like not studying. of. I didn’t like the way I did something like that.”
But he need not worry. He did it several times and finished before lunch, which is almost unheard of for 12 pages of script.
Movies have also taken on a meta quality, allowing them to explore and comment on how cinema influences people.
“It has a kind of ambition and its dreamlike quality and all that wonder. But what comes with it is that sometimes you’re the person who doesn’t get the part,” said West. And dreams are attached to that, so it’s overwhelming, you know?”
The worlds of “X” and “Pearl” are expanding as well. This week, A24 announced that a third film, titled “MaXXXine” in 1985, would have a finale.
“We catch up with Maxine after ‘X’,” West teased. “I’ll have to be a little tighter after that.”
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