Have you seen the poster for "Little Ashes"? The one prominently featuring Robert Pattinson and his mustache staring off into space?
If so, you'd be forgiven for thinking of this as "the Salvador Dali movie." After all, that's who the British star of "Twilight" plays here. But although Pattinson certainly looks the part of the eccentric, pop-eyed painter of melting clocks in this historical drama, set in pre-civil-war Spain of the 1920s and 1930s, his Dali is a mess. He's all tics and mannerisms, with nothing underneath. And his Spanish accent sounds closer to Transylvanian.
Fortunately, the character at the center of this strange little film isn't Dali at all, but Federico Garcia Lorca. Spanish actor Javier Beltran plays the poet and playwright with both soulfulness and passion. "Little Ashes" tells the controversial and speculative story of Garcia Lorca's doomed love for Dali.
Fact: Garcia Lorca was gay. Fact: Dali, who was known for his many sexual hang-ups, met the writer when both were in college in Madrid.
Director Paul Morrison and writer Philippa Goslett have taken those two little facts and run with them, assuming that there might have been a lot more to the relationship.
For most of his life, Dali kept mum about the private details of his friendship with Garcia Lorca, who was murdered, probably because of his homosexuality.
The most fascinating aspect of "Little Ashes" is the, er, exegesis it offers for the 1929 film "An Andalusian Dog." No one has ever really understood that groundbreaking short, made in collaboration between filmmaker Luis Bunuel (another college pal of Garcia Lorca's) and Dali.
The short is presented as a "Beavis and Butthead"-style goof perpetrated by Dali and Bunuel at the expense of Garcia Lorca.
According to "Little Ashes," Dali became jealous over the sexual attentions of writer Magdalena (Marina Gatell) toward Garcia Lorca. Bunuel, meanwhile, played by Brit Matthew McNulty, is depicted as a violent homophobe.
Beltran, for his part, makes a solidly believable Garcia Lorca. The problem is with the man with whom he's obsessed. In Pattinson's performance, we never see what Garcia Lorca sees in Dali.
What Pattinson never seems to get is that there must have been something beating beneath that mustache, mop of hair and awful, awful accent.
-- Michael O'Sullivan (May 29, 2009)
Contains sex, nudity, obscenity and a scene of gay bashing.