While “Pearl” is set in 1918, the saturated color photography, makeup, and stagey acting are more evocative of a Douglas Sirk film from the 1950s. It’s also no coincidence that Pearl, in one notable scene, dresses in powder blue gingham very evocative of Dorothy Gale from “The Wizard of Oz.” In that scene, Pearl, feeling a rush of lust, takes out her frustrations on a nearby scarecrow — a sexual riff on a ’30s classic. In a recent interview with Opentapes, Ti West also revealed that “Pearl” was meant to take a lot of cues from the film version of “Mary Poppins.”
For her part, Goth was influenced less by the works of Douglas Sirk, Victor Fleming, or Robert Stevenson, and more by a pair of rather surprising precursors. In the W interview, Goth said she looked to Bette Davis in the 1962 Robert Aldrich film “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” as well as Björk in Lars Von Trier’s 2000 film “Dancer in the Dark.”
One might be able to see the influence of “Baby Jane” more clearly. “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” is about a former child star (Davis), now in her 60s, still longing for the glory days of when she achieved fame on stage as a 9-year-old moppet. She resents her sister Blanche (Joan Crawford), whom Jane must care for as she, years ago, was injured in a car crash and now requires constant supervision.
The “Baby Jane” comparison is certainly apt, especially when compared to “X,” another film about a woman remembering the glory days of her youth. Additionally, “X” contains a great deal of resentment for those who haven’t yet been destroyed by despair and old age.