Wednesday, November 12, 2008

DVDebut: Craig's Foolish "Flashbacks"

For film fans looking for more of Daniel Craig, unclothed especially, the opening scene of FLASHBACKS OF A FOOL (dreadfully pretentious title!) should keep you happy, as the menage-a-trois shown is full of fire-lighted flesh and frisky lovemaking. But then it’s the morning after and the angst sets in. Released to American DVD this past week, writer/director Baillie Walsh's film is mostly one large flashback that covers the character played by Craig in late adolescence, as he discovers sex, love and dancing -- all of which leads him to become the has-been star we see at the film’s beginning. How his stardom happened, what it entailed and who this character is – these go completely unremarked upon, which makes the movie seem like a novel that’s been hacked to half-length and then given a TV-level treatment.
Interestingly enough, the flashback section proves twice as worthwhile as the opening/closing framework that features Mr. Craig. In it, the characters are more vivid and the story becomes involving. Harry Eden essays the Craig character as a young man, and he is fine -- though it's almost impossible to imagine that -- facially -- that kid ever grew into that man. Viewers will also welcome the prescence of actresses on the level of Olivia Williams, Jodhi May and Helen McCrory. Craig acquits himself as well as his very limited role permits, but anyone coming late to the career of this splendid actor, should partake of some of his earlier triumphs. Even in smaller roles (Infamous), in films not so hot (Enduring Love) or gripping but unpleasant (Love Is the Devil), as well as the lead in the grossly under-rated Layer Cake or a near-perfect movie like The Mother, in which Craig does some of his best work, this actor remains wonderfully versatile, always riveting. Let’s hope the Bond franchise does not prove reductive to what ought to be a burgeoning, long-lasting career for an actor who has already made over 50 film and TV appearances. If playing Bond forces Craig to accept roles like this one in order to remind audiences of his versatility, then he – and we – are in trouble.


NickJones said...

One of my favorite, small Daniel Craig roles was in The Jacket (2005), as a psychiatric inpatient who claims to have tried but failed to kill his wife dozens of times. To say more would spoil the experience of the character, but Craig is both funny and heartbreaking in the role.

James van Maanen, said...

Wow, Nick -- I had forgotten all about this film. I suspect it's been mixing itself up in my mind with The Tuxedo. (Jackie Chan and Jennifer Love Hewitt should never be mixed up with Adrien Brody and Daniel Craig, right?) The Jacket is a movie that I actually liked a lot when I saw it some years back. I think the critical drubbing it was given is quite undeserved. My review from a few years ago on GreenCine appears here:
Thank you SO much for calling our (and re-calling my) attention to it!

NickJones said...

I'm glad I could be helpful, James. Reminding myself of The Jacket inspired me to take advantage of a discount on DVDs for Borders Rewards members and picked it up last night.

I've only seen two of Craig's films, this and Casino Royale, and between the two, he certainly shows a wide range. He's been nominated for a BAFTA Best Actor award (for CR); if there's any justice in the world, I someday hope to see him win an Oscar.

Haunting the boards for my favorite films, I've noticed a lot of complex movies getting comments such as "This movie sucked, it was stupid, it didn't make sense." I remember someone in the theater laughing mockingly after the end of Dark City (1998). I guess some people (critics and audiences alike) have to have their movies served up bland and predictable, and any film that requires a little thought offends them.

Read your review, by the way. Good, if a bit short. I wouldn't have used the adjective "frozen" to describe the locker, though. They leave Jack in the locker so long, he'd have suffered, if not died, from the effects of hypothermia.

Here's a review by a critic who gave The Jacket a better than average review. "The Jacket may be flawed, but it's also richly compelling."

P.S. I love the irony, after all the sinister forebodings, of how Jack's fatal injury occurs. And yes, when I'm interested in a subject, I do tend to blather on and on. I'm trying to train myself to be more succinct.

All the best,
Steve "NickJones" O'Rourke

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks, Nick. Yes, Ken Hanke's review is quite a good one. Though he gives too much plot away (a problem I find with lengthy reviews in general), he certainly pushes the reader to see this movie. Which is what I guess we all try to do (or not, if we really dislike a film). I tend to prefer writing in the short form, so as to avoid overkill. Anyway, do see more of Craig. He's one of the best. Try "The Mother" and "Layer Cake" for sure -- two very different genres and roles.