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Little Ashes - arthouse and international DVD / drama DVD / biographical DVD review
LITTLE ASHES Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 1 star
Featuring: Javier Beltrán, Robert Pattinson, Matthew McNulty, Marina Gatell
Director: Paul Morrison   Distributor: E1 Entertainment
DVD release: 26 January 2010   Runtime: 112 minutes
(1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DVD, NTSC, Widescreen
DVD Features: Aspect ratio 1.78:1, Audio tracks (English - Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Subtitles (English), Interviews with cast/director

Javier Beltrán, Robert Pattinson, Matthew McNulty in LITTLE ASHESLittle Ashes is experiencing a not-at-all deserved revival as teeny boppers seek out heartthrob Robert Pattinson in his pre- Twilight roles. The gals won't be disappointed: he was just as bad an actor then as he is now. Indeed, creeping expectations being what they are, he's going to seem brilliant in the Twilight Saga compared to the fangless job he did in Little Ashes.

A major problem stems from the fact that young Pattinson and his fellow actors haven't a clue about the Spanish language. I'd be willing to bet they couldn't point to Spain on a map, either. As for Spain in the 1920s? Forget about it.

So when this crew, with their misguided director (already the auteur responsible for several clunkers) and hapless scriptwriter (a single name no doubt masking the sins of a back-biting committee), go to make a movie about the relationship between Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel and Federico García Lorca, the result is a train wreck with many fatalities.

The story - well, really, there is no story, which is another one of the problems with this film - centers on Lorca, the brilliant, prodigal and gay poet of the Spanish revolution, who was murdered by a firing squad of Fascists in 1936. Lorca had a thing for Dalí (go figure; Dalí was an egomaniac who didn't have much time or interest for anyone but the genius of Dalí), while Buñuel had a thing for Lorca. They're thrown together in Madrid in the early 1920s at an art school: the poet, the painter and the filmmaker flambéed one another in the gasoline of their hormones and undeniable talent. Add copious amounts of alcohol, place a lithe and lovely young female in the center of the triangle and, by the laws of nature, things are bound to end in tears.

If only the filmmakers could have adhered to that slim précis. Instead, we get a script apparently written by a centipede eager to divorce and cannibalize each of its hundred legs. Scene after scene with no transition or context is jumbled one upon the other in a style I believe technically known as the "shit heap."

Even for viewers who know the story of the three men, their passionate menage, and how all that is supposed to go, good luck decoding what is actually being said. The abuse of spoken dialogue here is unforgivable: Pattinson and colleagues' phony Spanish accents are largely unintelligible. One wonders how the editor managed to edit the film (and it may well be that the editor did what the writer did, and slung together scenes at random). The result is a kind of sonic mush fluffed up with a "Spanish" guitar track that sounds like it was written and performed by a yuppie easy-listening group on a Sunday morning before they'd had their coffee.

In some ways, that's a blessing, though, as the roles are so overacted that every emotion (the two or three in the purported artists' repertoires, that is) are telegraphed and legible at a great distance. I will give Pattinson this, however: he bugs out his eyes in one shot in a near-perfect imitation of Dalí. Alas, I'm not sure that's really a compliment.

Oh, well. Lorca and Dalí are not neglected subjects, so nothing is lost here, even if valuable natural resources were perhaps squandered in the making of this film. Plenty of excellent films, theater pieces and books precede Little Ashes, and many more are sure to come. As for Buñuel, it is perhaps ironic that such a crappy film could be made that invokes one of the twentieth century's greatest filmmakers. Then again, no, it's not ironic; that's far too sophisticated for Little Ashes.

Avoid like the plague - and Twilight fans can, um, bite me.
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reviewed by Brian Charles Clark
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