Friday, April 3, 2009

Flashbacks of a Fool

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With Daniel Craig all buff Bond these days, it's a surprise he signed up to play the fool. As far as I can tell, Craig's turn from Bond to Hollywood brat in Flashbacks of a Fool managed to fly under the radar, going straight to DVD in Australia.

Writer/director Baillie Walsh presents us with a small and seemingly personal story of love, loss and sexual awakening one sultry English summer in the 1970s. Walsh, an old friend of Craig's (and indebted to him for getting the production off the ground) has a background in music videos, and he certainly incorporates this in his debut feature. Indeed music plays such a dominant role in the film, most successfully in a truly wonderful sing-along scene to Roxy Music. Unfortunately however, the soundtrack at times threatens to suffocate the action, particularly some overly dramatic instrumental sections that seem to manipulate the atmosphere.

This is a simple story, with no real plot surprises, so the focus rests on the performances. Craig does a convincing job as Joe Scott, a coked out celebrity-type with a skerrick of conscience. Having been a bit frustrated by the way he pouted through the latest Bond, I'm pleased to say his face acting here is subtle and intelligent. His youthful counterpart, Harry Eden, has an absolutely striking resemblance, and while he doesn't quite match up in the acting department, he does portray well the awkward, self-conscious sexuality of a teenager.

The other characters are equally well cast. Felicity Jones is absolutely captivating as the young Ruth in her Roxy sing-along scene, and the grown-up Claire Forlani is surprisingly and compellingly emotive in her final scene. But as the hard-done-by housekeeper, rapper Eve convinces us that she shouldn't quit her day job, just yet.

Despite the obviously simple story and well drawn characters, I still wanted more depth from this film. The flashbacks allowed for the film to progress through vignettes, and while it was refreshing to see that a lot was allowed to be left unsaid (what happened to Joe's Father, who was the other woman now living with his Mum, how), the ellipses in the story at times frustratingly underscore its simplicity. It's as if Walsh uses the conceit of the flashback to skip from plot point to plot point, without giving us enough time to sit and breathe with the characters.

That said, it's telling that I wanted to spend more time in Joe's world. Call it foolish or simply intriguing.

Flashbacks of a Fool is available on DVD.

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