Carrie (Brian De Palma / U.S., 1976):

The wallflower who finally shatters the wall, or I Was a Teenage Medusa. It glides from a volleyball game to La danse des nymphes in the girls’ locker room, and the slow-mo reverie of Brian De Palma’s camera is interrupted as menarche suddenly hits Carrie (Sissy Spacek) in the shower. "You’re a woman now," proclaims her mother (Piper Laurie) before whomping the dismayed misfit with the Holy Bible. Hysteria, hormonal as well as evangelical, is strikingly ingrained in the mise en scène: Carrie in the closet is Gish in Broken Blossoms, an overhead shot gives way to a close-up of a Saint Sebastian figurine with mysteriously luminous eyes. Pelted with taunts and tampons, she quietly cultivates her telekinetic powers while her tormentors plot a bogus coronation for prom night. Nancy Allen and Amy Irving are the high-school fairies, one wicked and the other nice, William Katt and John Travolta are the lunkheads taking part in their machinations. A constellation of spiraling cardboard stars, a dilation of Marnie’s family trauma and red suffusions. "Take off that dress! We’ll burn it together and pray for forgiveness." "Oh Mama..." Stephen King’s book outlines a world ringed with abuse, De Palma visualizes it with vast amounts of pervy humor and ominous effulgence. The showiest camera maneuver—a continuous pan-crane-zoom around the dance floor that locates the bucket of pig’s blood above the stage—segues into the most gleeful bit of montage, with Allen literally licking her lips as her ruse lands with an ejaculatory splat. Not to be outdone, the gore-drenched heroine cracks her chrysalis most spectacularly and brings down the temple into a split-screen volcano; back home, Mama brandishes Abraham’s knife and finds ecstasy with a dozen kitchen utensils sticking out of her torso. The ethereal and the grotesque, voluptuousness and brimstone, the inquisitive artist and the baroque showman, everything in combustible balance. Keats’ "The Living Hand" figures in the closing stinger, a vision of soft-focus harmony denied harshly, uproariously. Cinematography by Mario Tosi. With Betty Buckley, P.J. Soles, Priscilla Pointer, and Sydney Lassick.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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