Cinema: A Movable Feast

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At its simplest level, Carrie is a rendering of that familiar fairy tale of the adolescent misfit—misunderstood and cruelly treated by a parent, despised and tormented by her peers—who finally turns on them all and gains dramatic, and emotionally satisfying, revenge.

But Carrie's ultimate triumph is spectacular beyond anything one is used to in this antique genre. Brian De Palma's sure and powerfully individual style, blending romance, darkish satirical humor and suspenseful spookiness, transforms what could have been dreary stuff. From its first shot, Carrie catches the mind, energetically shakes it and refuses to let go even after the end credits have rolled.

As the picture opens. Carrie —played with consummate craft by Sissy Spacek, who was so fine in Badlands—could not be a more hopeless case. She is the child of a religious fanatic (Piper Laurie) who is sexually repressed to the point of madness. Carrie does not even know about menstruation and when, in her high school locker room, she gets her period for the first time, she becomes hysterical. Turning to the other girls for help, she is instead turned upon and abused in what may be the most terrifying demonstration of the adolescent capacity for mass cruelty ever filmed.

A gym teacher, nicely played by Betty Buckley, rescues her and punishes her tormentors with extrastrenuous work outs, which naturally leads the dear chil dren to plot still deeper humiliation for Carrie. The idea is to rig her election as prom queen and destroy her at her moment of unexpected triumph.

They should have paid closer attention to their victim. They should have noticed, for example, that when Carrie is around, ashtrays have a way of hop ping up off desks, that mirrors suddenly break for no reason at all, that windows have a way of slamming shut without anyone's touching them. For Carrie possesses the power of telekinesis, the ability to animate objects and make them obey her will. In short, beneath that mousey exterior, that shy desire simply to be accepted, a terrible power lurks, waiting to be called forth.

Romantic Dream. One of the film's high points occurs at the senior prom, where the star jock (William Katt, a young actor of near Redfordian charm) has been gulled into dating Carrie in or der to set her up for her fall. He begins to respond to her unaffectedly, and Carrie is suddenly living a dream of romance long cherished. Their waltz, full of discovery and promise, is a very touching thing. It is especially poignant since the audience knows what those vicious girls are planning and suspects what havoc Carrie will unleash in response.

They literally have a bloodbath in mind, but Carrie's response beggars description. A telekinetic orgy is, if nothing else, an opportunity for dynamite cinema — a big, wreck-everything-in-sight sequence that is most pleasurably anarchical.

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