Sunday, March 17, 2013

Faces in the Bubbles/Odd Man Out (Carol Reed, 1947)

James Joyce by way of David Goodis, Carol Reed's magnificent Odd Man Out follows the dying wee-hour footsteps of a once-proficient IRA soldier after he inadvertently kills a policeman in one of his unit's operations (basically a bank robbery). James Mason plays Johnny McQueen, who insists he's ready for action again after spending some time in British lock-up. Obviously shaky, nearly everyone tries to talk him out of it, but he's Johnny McQueen, so. Most of the film consists of Johnny bleeding out as he cowers in alleys & collapses on the doorsteps of unwelcoming safehouses, but punctuating this dire odyssey are a series of masterfully constructed, often surreal, set-pieces that can't help but bring to mind Leopold Bloom's trudge through Dublin. Each of Johnny's stops is peopled with a staggering array of Irish acting talent, firing whiskey & local color from every drawn face, crumpled mouth & crooked finger, but this is my favorite. McQueen, fevered & delirious, begins to hear the reprimands & cautious platitudes of loved ones & pals from faces in the foam of the beer he's spilled.

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