Monday, January 12, 2009

Old Films

This past weekend on television I saw two films I had missed, Brian DePalma's Carrie (1976) and Ron Howard's The Missing (2003).

Carrie is about a plain girl of telekinetic ability with a religious, repressed mother whose teachings leave the girl ill-prepared for school or life; and, thanks to her own lack of proper orientation and the cruelty of others, the girl's talents are used for destruction rather than anything good. The fascinating thing is how horrifying the "normal" world is in this film: though warmly photographed it is dull, and full of small-minded, cruel people. The mother is more idea and symbol than real woman, though what she symbolizes is important in a small town, such as the one Carrie (Sissy Spacek) lives in.

Cate Blanchett plays a frontier woman, honest and tough, with a father who abandoned her to join the native Americans (Indians). When her lover is killed and eldest daughter abducted, her gone-native father helps her track the girl, who is captive to a male witch and his men (they plan to sell the daughter and other girls). There were some predictable things in this film, but its spirit still seemed large. (Both the frontier woman's father and the male witch are larger-than-life, stranger-than-life figures.) The story is about accepting the difficulties of other people's choices and about making amends. The land itself is an important element; and the film is set in a time in which the land is at least as dangerous, if not more so, than the people who walk it (while, arguably now, we humans are more dangerous than the land and the other living beings to be found on it).