Friday, June 26, 2009

Little Ashes (Rhoades)

Stirring the Flame With “Little Ashes”

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

My bedroom here in Key West is covered with Salvador Dali etchings and Marc Chagall serigraphs. I find that Dali’s surrealism and Chagall’s dream images are the perfect accompaniment for my going to sleep each night.

In “Little Ashes” – the Spanish-British drama currently found at the Tropic Cinema – you will get to meet the young Salvador Dali and his 1920s cohorts.

At 18, Dali arrived at the Academia de San Fernando (School of Fine Arts) in Madrid, where his flamboyance attracted an elite circle of students headed by poet Federico Garcia Lorca and future filmmaker Luis Buñuel.

Eventually Dali and Lorca were drawn together (no, that’s not a pun), spending time on the Spanish coast, a gathering with Dali’s family at Cadaques that was both idyllic and romantic.
Think of this as a prequel, the young Salvador Dali before he changed his ways and married a celeb-collecting older woman known as Gala. No twirling mustache, no melting clocks, no … persistence of memory.

Dali is portrayed here by Robert Pattinson, a young British actor most notable for playing a vampire in that Romeo-and-Juliet megahit, “Twilight.”

Buñuel is played by Matthew McNulty, best known for his TV work in England.

And Lorca is depicted by Javier Beltrán, a young Spanish newcomer.

Elena Ivanovna Diakonova (the Russian immigrant who came to call herself Gala) makes a brief appearance in the personage of Arly Jover, a Spanish actress who had a part in the vampire thriller “Blade.”

I’ve traveled to the Dali Museum in Figueres, Spain, the town of his birth. It reminded me of the painter’s proclamation that he loved “everything that is gilded and excessive.”

His life was excessive.

The movie’s title is taken from a Dali painting that was originally called “The Birth of Venus,” before being changed to “Sterile Efforts,” and then finally to “Cenicitas” (Little Ashes).

As for the steamy love affair depicted in this movie, Dali denied it, saying of Lorca: “He was homosexual, as everyone knows, and madly in love with me ... I was extremely annoyed, because I wasn’t homosexual, and I wasn’t interested in giving in.”

Philippa Goslett defends her screenplay: “Having done a huge amount of research, it’s clear something happened, no question….”
[from Solares Hill]

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