For Reel

Out Man Odd (1947)
August 5, 2016, 9:57 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Carol Reed
4.5 Stars
Odd Man OutAt a pivotal moment in Odd Man Out, a painter (Robert Newton) finds the perfect subject for a portrait in the dying Johnny (James Mason), whose eyes suggest an uncanny beauty—the eyes of someone who knows that death is imminent. As cynical and grossly opportunistic as the moment is, it is an evocation of Odd Man Out‘s particular approach to impressionism, which propels the plot forward through feeling more than action. Crucially, the opening title cards inform us that the film concerns “the heart of the people” rather than the politics involved, and through that lens we can make sense of just about everything that follows. It’s a film about what it feels like to die. Even the setting itself seems to die with Johnny—the early scenes are photographed on a clear afternoon, giving way to thunderstorms when things are at their bleakest, and finally to an eery, oddly calming snow in the dead of night that forms the atmosphere for his death march. Director Carol Reed would similarly use setting to inform the personal in The Third Man, but the specificity of the poetic realism in Odd Man Out lends itself even better to the visuals. Mason, though largely off screen for much of the picture, was the most sensitive of screen monsters of the period, and as his love interest Kathleen Ryan gives a startlingly modern, understated performance—the calm slowness in which she moves her eyes to examine herself in a mirror shows a restraint that someone like Newton doesn’t show a similar patience for. If the film does not have the striking narrative appeal of something like The Third Man or even The Fallen Idol, it is one of the greatest evocations about how the night feels, where characters walk in trances as the streets seem equally threatening and serene.