Saturday, March 12, 2011

On Hiatus

As mentioned in a few other outlets, I'm going on hiatus (hopefully temporary). I have enjoyed scribbling in this journal over the past two years, but right now I need the time to focus on other things. If anyone has any suggestions or comments on my writing, I would like to hear them. Otherwise I shall pick this back up in due time.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Odd Man Out (1947)

Directed by Carol Reed.
Starring James Mason and Robert Newton.
In a Nutshell: A wounded revolutionary disappears into the city, evading a manhunt.

The potential hotbed of political posturing and outlandish plot trappings quickly evaporates from one’s viewing of Odd Man Out. Before Carol Reed transformed Vienna’s war scars into an expressionist dreamscape, there was Ireland’s Belfast. Shot by Robert Krasker (also of Third Man status), the streets become a twilight-lit purgatory for its wounded protagonist. Johnny McQueen (James Mason), a notorious leader of the Irish Republican Army, is left dying at the scene of a botched robbery turned accidental murder. He struggles for catharsis and escape, rubbing up against urchins, vengeful authoritative types and a trio of the eccentric-destitute. It makes a surreal journey, not just from Johnny’s slowly ebbing life, but his disorientating exposure to the world above, heightened through baroque angles and lighting. Framed within an opposing neorealism, ally Kathleen (Kathleen Ryan) keeps a cool head as she scrapes together a future for her love; fate looms ominous.

One point of interest: the IRA and Belfast are never called by name, most likely to sidestep any overt politicizing. If there is any drawback, it over-generalizes the machinations of Johnny and Kathleen. Their emotion is broadcast in sight and sound, but overall both remain too enigmatic for a narrative hinging on redemption. In that respect, the attention to subsidiary characters can feel like a grope for “meaning” with allegorical figureheads in place of realism. Still, all the more accolades for Reed and Krasker, whose work transcends the material with a visual, poetic aura. The audience feels Johnny’s debilitation beyond the physical and earthly strife, even if they cannot speak it. It stands a film of beautiful, sensory experience, in its purest form.