Flashbacks of a Fool (2008)
Director: Baillie Walsh
Cast: Daniel Craig, Harry Eden, Eve
Synopsis: A fading Hollywood star looks back at the days of his youth as he returns home from his best friend’s funeral.
I vaguely remember Flashbacks of a Fool earning some unflattering reviews when it came out in the UK in 2008 but was prepared to give it a go. I thought maybe I was on to a winner with the soft-focus opening sequence played out against an old Scott Walker song, but unfortunately that – and another romanticised sequence featuring a Roxy Music song which proves to be one of the more important scenes of the entire film – were the few high points in an otherwise disappointing effort.
The theme – the loss of youth and the realisation that we have lost more than we had ever realised with its passing – is a universal one which means it has the potential to speak to everyone who watches it. A few years ago I saw a photograph taken of myself when I was 17 with my arms around a couple of female friends I have long since lost contact with and I was shaken by the depth of feelings that ordinary photograph aroused. A sudden reminder of a past time can serve as a violent wake-up call simply because it can re-awaken thoughts and feelings that life have slowly and almost completely anaesthetised, so the last scene also resonated with me (I didn’t burst into hysterical tears like Ruth when I saw the photo – stiff-upper-lipped Brit and all that, don’t yer know – but you get what I mean). Anyway, although it did resonate, too much of what had gone before was so indulgent as to border on the laughable. The film as a whole also fails to gel: there’s no real sense of time despite the references to Roxy Music and Bowie, or place (the film, largely set in Britain, was filmed in South Africa) and relationships that are central to the story are largely unexplored.
Daniel Craig performs well, as do all the cast, but they’re up against a director intent on showing how sensitive and deep his story is. I lost count of the number of times we were treated to shots of the sea or the lake, the occasions when character’s faces are shot through glass reflecting cloudy skies, etc. It’s all very meaningful and artistic, but it’s also a bit too obvious to be effective, and the fundamental theme of the storyline means that they aren’t really necessary.
The choice of music is first-class though.