Little Ashes (2009)
by Sawyer J. Lahr
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Little Ashes opens on a blurred meadow and a whispering spanish voice, that of the poet Federico Garcia Lorca (Javier Beltran) who inspires the work of young Salvador Dali (Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame). The two become intellectual companions in 1922 at Residencia de Estudiantes of Madrid, Spain, yet are never quite the gay lovers you might expect them to be.
Little Ashes is a coming-of-age tale in pre-revolution Spain. Gay coming of age has been seen infinitely before in new queer cinema. True to tradition, the token female, Margarita (Marina Gatell), gets a raw deal, very raw. An apology should be in order, but for her and Lorca, its easier to let bygones be bygones.
If you’re looking forward to seeing Pattinson naked, you’ll have to settle for some pubic hair. He looks better off screen than on if you’ve seen the cover of GQ magazine. Taking the role was a vacation for Pattinson. It was far from his pampering on the set of Twilight. He says he didn’t even get a trailer during the filming of Little Ashes.
Pattinson’s immaturity for the subject of gay love shows, yet he should get sympathy for having to endure giggling electricians on set as Pattinson and Beltran share a much awaited almost-sex scene.
Pattinson is no longer a virgin to masturbating on-screen. His portrayal of the famous surrealist painter/filmmaker is aroused by semi-rape. Dali becomes progressively caustic and pseudo-fascist in order to carry out his work through the Nazi uprising. He marries the infamous Russian muse Gala, ten years his senior, but because the actors are never aged, Dali looks more like Macaulay Culkin with dark hair and a mustache.
It’s obvious how little Pattinson is invested in the role. He can’t pull off a Spanish accent, and it’s impossible to forget while watching the film that he doesn’t understand a word of Spanish, which he unabashedly admits. Beltran, on the other hand, carries the film with a performance that promises better material.
The work could stand alone as a story inspired by the memoirs of Salvador Dali, but fervency is missing from the actors delivering the lines. The paintings featured are spectacular, but the film might have been better if Luis Buñuel directed it himself, more surreal and politically significant.
Sawyer J. Lahr is Chief Editor of the forthcoming online publication, Go Over the Rainbow. He also writes a monthly film column for Mindful Metropolis, a conscious living magazine in Chicago, IL.
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