Knight at the Movies Archives
An old fashioned (gay) romance, and a lot of biceps to hold the attention
The folks at tiny Regent Releasing must be beside themselves with excitement. Not only are they distributing the forthcoming
Departures, the surprising upset winner from Japan for this year’s foreign Oscar award but with Little Ashes, a period drama set in
Spain, they suddenly find themselves with a movie starring Robert Pattinson, the overnight sensation thanks to his portrayal of the
gloomy vampire Edward Cullen in Twilight. I’m not sure how the teenage girls that squealed over each and every fluttering of
Pattinson’s eyelashes will feel about his first film since he set millions of hearts aflame but the actor’s gay fans are in for a big
treat. In Little Ashes Pattinson plays surrealist painter Salvador Dali who, as the film has it, engaged in a passionate affair with
poet/playwright/martyr Federico Garcia Lorca (played by another stunner, Javier Beltran making his film debut) during their college
days. No matter the reaction, the film, from director Paul Morrison, is a pleasurable, old fashioned romance with a good measure of
art and politics tossed in between the passion.
The film begins in Madrid in 1922 when Dali first walks through the doors of Madrid’s School of Fine Arts. At 18, with his pageboy
haircut, thigh high boots, and lacy pirate shirts he’s already an individual among individuals and at first the other students give him
a wide berth but as soon as budding filmmaker Luis Bunuel (Matthew McNulty) gets a look at one of his paintings, the rest of these
self-proclaimed “moderns” embrace him. Soon Dali and Lorca have become fast friends and it’s obvious that both would like to take
things further. Morrison prolongs the skittish, love sick courtship of these two budding artistic geniuses so by the time Lorca takes
Dali to his countryside home to meet his family the audience (or certain portions) may be suffering a distinct case of prolonged
arousal. Finally, finally – after the duo bicycle through the impossibly beautiful Spanish countryside in their matching white summer
suits (oh to be young, beautiful and in love with artistic talent to boot!) the two share a sensual midnight swim underneath a thick,
liquid moon as the camera glides under the water with the two love starved friends. Morrison shamelessly – and deliciously – milks
the scene for all its worth so that by the time the two finally kiss its like the shot heard round the world.
Before things progress any further, however, Dali is lured to Paris, modern art central, by the jealous Bunuel (Morrison portrays him
as a homophobe who’s most likely a repressed homo himself). In the meantime, the love starved Lorca with his beautiful deer eyes
pines away for him. When Dali returns, he’s grown the first of his outrageous mustaches, talks about the mysterious, controlling
Gala (who eventually became his wife and protector). But he’s still drawn to the fetching, talented Lorca and now wants to take
things further. The physical act of love making, however, is both physically and emotionally too painful for Dali. So, even though he
has constantly repeated his mantra, “No limit” to Lorca, that’s exactly what he places on himself and he takes off again. The film,
based on Phillippa Goslett’s book suggests that Dali lacked the courage of his vision – he meant “no limit” alright – but externally,
We move forward eight years, once again in Madrid when Lorca has become a celebrity playwright and poet and has a new lover (or
so it is strongly suggested). The Dali that returns to him is the poseur with the icy Gala (Arly Jover) in tow, now his wife and Lorca
rejects their none-too subtle attempt at a three way. It’s Dali or the highway, apparently. Not long after, ignoring the political unrest
that would soon erupt into a war Lorca, who has become an emblem of democracy in Spain, is taken prisoner and executed by a
band of terrorists. The film suggests that part of the reason for his execution had to do with his gay sexuality so here we have
another gay martyr for the history books, another fallen leader to mourn.
Pattinson catches Dali’s strange mix of insecurity and giant egotism (which later hardened into a way of life) with finesse while
Beltran as Lorca has the fire and passion of a young Antonio Banderas, Javier Bardem, or Andy Garcia (who actually played the part
in an earlier film version). Marina Gatell as the duo’s wealthy best gal pal is fun especially when she gets drunk and morose as is
Jover as the creepy yet fascinating Gala.
Little Ashes follows in the path of other tragic gay, period romance films. With its sumptuous cinematography (in HD no less),
gorgeous locations, moody story line, and nicely shaded performances, fans of Maurice and the little seen Proteus will find plenty to
satisfy their tastes. Whether or not that includes squealing teenage girls remains to be seen.
Unlike the overly complicated Watchmen, the last comic book blockbuster to hit theatres, X Men Origins: Wolverine is such a
blandly predictable sci-fi blockbuster that one can focus on different parts of star Hugh Jackman’s extraordinary physique – his
spectacular abs, his enormous biceps, his perfectly proportioned ass, even his perfectly trimmed sideburns, and those of his
counterparts (especially Ryan Reynolds) – without fear of losing out on a single plot point.
The movie is mildly entertaining, pours on the special effects and tries hard – and fails – to keep the audience involved in the
familiar and dumb dumb plot that pits brother against brother and tosses Danny Huston as an evil, mad scientist into the mix. The
real problem is that there is not a single flesh and blood character in the over produced movie and the enormously talented
Jackman, who has had to defend playing late gay icon Peter Allen on Broadway in The Boy From Oz in just about every interview he’s
done for the movie (a role for which he won the Tony), is especially ill-served. If this is an example of the kind of run of the mill
schlock that Hollywood is offering Jackman I suggest he immediately head back to Broadway for more challenging fare. Or perhaps
he could produce a screen version of The Boy From Oz himself. Now that would be something to anticipate.
Artists & (Hunky) Models:
Little Ashes-X Men Origins: Wolverine
Expanded Edition of 5-6-09 Windy City Times KATM Column
By Richard Knight, Jr.