Sunday, July 23, 2006

De Palma Image of the Day

In Carrie, Sissy Spacek is horrified by her body and her womanhood--but she learns to harness her power to great destructive effect. Some have read this as a direct generic extrapolation of femininity (and menstruation) into monstrosity, so that Carrie represents De Palma's (and the viewer's) fear of Woman ... but nothing could be farther from the truth. The director's teen-telekinesis diptych is about both Pandora's Box and the Return of the Repressed. The monstrosity is that of adolescence, of potentiality, and those who paid most dearly for it are the conservators of a repressive adult order. If this was still unclear for some viewers with Carrie, De Palma worked hard to make it more lucid in The Fury. Like Spacek, Amy Irving has difficulty coming to terms with her powers. But for Irving, femininity itself is not at issue: she hasn't been raised by a religious nut, her health allows her to eventually overcome the hurdles, to survive. The difference is that her powers are also unwedded to pampered (male) privilege, and her survival comes dually from the fact that she has neither repression nor excess--she perseveres, she is "healthy." She learns to tame the killer instinct that Robin Sandza indulges (and is encouraged to indulge).

In The Fury there are two especially important colors: red (blood) and blue (the psychic eyes). Otherwise, from Kirk Douglas' costume color palette to the white interiors and the beige-brown beach of the prologue, The Fury is dominated by neutrals. Schematically speaking, Irving 'tames' the preponderance of red with blue. It is a pleasant coincidence (I presume it's only a coincidence) that in the still I found above, when Irving stares in horror at the blood on her hands, still struggling with the powers with which she is dealing, she is wearing a shirt that is ... light blue. (In full disclosure, I remember that this is a still from the scene in the film where Irving unintentionally kills someone in the 'psychic home' where she stays for a while. But my DVD is out on loan so I can't double-check it. Maybe I'm misremembering?)

I wrote about these two films (mostly The Fury) in a course paper available
here. For more De Palma analysis, some really good stuff about the way DP structures his images in sequence throughout a narrative, I recommend going here, and click on the button 'second sight.'


Eric Henderson said...

Actually, that's right after the flashback she gets from grabbing Fred Astaire's... I mean Charles Durning's hand on the staircase. The flashback where she kills one of the psychic clinic's doctors (which I, for whatever reason, never quite allowed to happen in my memory -- I always presumed, evidence to the contrary, that she survived that psychic beating) happens a little bit later.

Ryan B. said...

you'll get that DVD back some day. glad to hear you haven't had to suffer without power

Zach Campbell said...

Thanks for the clarification Eric, at least the principle was the same even if the instance wasn't.

No hurry Ryan.