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  • Ask the Dust follows the Depression Era story of a rather average writer attempting to be a great one. Set in the new-get-rich town of failed dreams (Los Angeles), the writer is an inexperienced and virginal Colin Farrell, who gradually falls for the uncompromising immigrant waitress Salma Hayek. This is a movie which, like its hero, has great ambitions but fails pitifully in many of them, yet one which can be treasured for its moments of pure beauty and shining rapture in its laboured attempt to become a classic.

    Colin Farrell's career to this point, after a spectacular rise with the gripping and slightly manic role in Phone Booth, attempted to scale heights which were out of reach (in Alexander, for instance), and then now seems to be developing more methodically with admirable performances such as The New World. In Ask the Dust his casting seems pitched just right, stretching him without making the demands which would need a more experienced actor. Salma Hayek, who is never shy about making a stand for Mexican women (and why not?) slots into her role perfectly. Unlike Farrell's character, an Italian who is nevertheless proud to be American, Hayeck fights on the back foot against the prejudice which she has encountered in real life even to this day. Her starring against Farrell's delicate writer also comes naturally. She has been quoted as saying (in one of her less political or feminist moments), "I keep waiting to meet a man who has more balls than I do," and in our story Farrell has his work cut out to dominate her in true Mexican latino fashion.

    Farrell and Hayek both being considered among top cinema sex icons, it will come as no disappointment to fans of both that they get into the buff on more than one occasion. One of the best scenes in the film is where Hayek challenges him to show her how to 'ride a wave' one night by moonlight. He bluffs it manfully, not admitting it is his first time in the sea, until she plays a practical joke to pay him back for pretending to have had a heart attack in her restaurant. The colours of the ocean are shot with memorable skill as the two of them out-dare each other (even though she later teases him for being afraid to show his penis on the beach). The director cleverly avoids falling into romantic comedy by using dramatic tension and the love-hate of their unconsummated affair. When the two of them finally do have sex, the turn on is not so much Farrell's heaving buttocks or Hayeck's naked chest – it is the fact that their emotions, that they have struggled with for so long, finally succeed in speaking each other's language.

    Other gems include times when translation deliberately falls between the cracks. ''It's not 'grew in me' but 'grew on me','' says Farrell, corrected her stumbling attempts at English (after asking her if it was love at first sight). She however makes a careful metaphor, saying how he grew inside her like a child. Sadly such moments are all too few and far between in this two hour movie. Dedicated cinephiles, or older generation moviegoers that have patience for a slowly developing tale, will wear the more pedestrian scripting and direction that fills the large spaces in-between, but such shortcomings will deny the film wider audience appeal in spite of its stars' charisma. Any poetic message element on the race and immigration theme ( . . . happiness is that you can be in a place where you are secure, and fall in love with whoever you want to, and not feel ashamed of it) is not backed up with any clarity of thought in the script (Farrell justifies his American-ness by youth and love of his country, throwing ageism in to replace racism); and the pot-shots at marijuana (if you will excuse the pun), which Hayek uses partly, we suspect, to ease her illness, are so politically incorrect as to be laughable outside of the 'great United States'. The overall message is similar to that erronous belief of George W Bush - that people of other (especially poorer) countries, simply aspire one day to be as great and wonderful as Americans. Salma Hayek may believe this role could help fight for the recognition and equality for all peoples, but it is unlikely that many outside of modern misguided America will see it that way. Like its protagonist, we can only hope that such promise and talent can somewhere blossom into greater writing that here witnessed.
  • Is Robert Towne L.A.'s Woody Allen? His portraits of the city are indelible, and one of the chief pleasures of Ask the Dust is the way in which the depression-era City of Angels becomes a character in the film. Ask the Dust is haunted by the notion that L.A. is the place where people come to slowly die in the sunshine and is fascinating as a piece of "sunny" film noir. It also explores themes of racism, prejudice and self-esteem and how they manifest themselves in personal relationships. There's a daring ugliness to the romance that makes the first third of the film especially compelling. The scene where Arturo Bandini and Camilla Lopez first meet is pure cinema and one of the more remarkable bits of mainstream film making I've seen in some time. In its way, it is as sublime as Brassai's photos of café-society Paris. In the work print I viewed, Ask the Dust wasn't able to sustain this opening intensity, but it managed to stay compelling nevertheless. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay Ask the Dust is that it reminded me why Chinatown is such a great film (and the comparisons will be inevitable); while I don't think Ask the Dust is in the same league, it does herald the welcome return of Robert Towne as an artist who understands L.A. by instinct, knows how to tap into Hollywood's rich history, and can deliver a human-scale film with the power to reward and possibly even change its audience.
  • "Ask the Dust" has excellent elements that almost come together as a whole.

    Like "End of the Affair" and "The White Countess", it surrounds a fraught love affair with exquisite looking period recreation that almost sucks the life out of it. (As with those films, the senior citizens at my matinée really enjoyed the period aspect.) Set in a sepia-tinged Depression-era Los Angeles of polluted palm trees, it is populated equally by youthful blond California girls and boys and old people at the end of the continent and their lines, as symbolized by Donald Sutherland's begging boarding house neighbor, like a ghost from his role in "The Day of the Locust".

    What saves the film is the frank dialog and odd sparks between Colin Farrell, as repressed Italian-American writer from Colorado, novelist John Fante's alter ego with the even more ethnically redolent name of "Arturo Bandini", and Salma Hayak as a non-stereotyped Mexican spitfire "Camilla Lopez". Their repartee about their biases is raw and fresh.

    Significantly, they are not the usual naive teen lovers, but are adults with mileage who are striving to change the trajectory of their lives. In this discrimination-filled, pre-celebration of the melting pot/rainbow environment (heavy-handedly demonstrated such as by their viewing Ruby Keeler's famous line from "Dames" "I'm free, white, and 21."), both are trying to make it in a specific image of the American Dream, a non-ethnic one, though we hear very little about their own sense of their ethnic identity. She is even dating a nasty guy named White in the vain hope of obtaining a green card and citizenship.

    Hayak's character is the easier to understand, as we see her exuberate in vibrant blue moonlight when she feels free with him, especially in vivid ocean scenes (she is absolutely stunning swimming naked), and then in bright light at a seashore idyll. This gorgeous scene gives "From Here to Eternity" a run for its money as the sexiest crashing of waves coupling in the movies. Though after all her sexually aggressive seduction efforts, their lovemaking is lit beautifully in the dark but conventionally choreographed as I expected her to demand more equality in bed. But then she's already started coughing with Movie Star Disease, even if it's explained more in the plot than usual.

    Even with his constant florid more than bordering on pretentious narration, sometimes in an exaggerated lower register, of his writing efforts (with the usual scenes of paper being ripped out a manual typewriter as he receives encouragement from H. L. Mencken) that doesn't really thematically integrate into the film until the end, it is harder to understand why it takes so long to get his uptight clothes off despite many importunings. There is an unusually sweet flirtation over literacy, but it seemed more like condescension on his part, especially to help her get citizenship, than sharing with her his love of words. The non-narrated scenes are a relief and are beautiful to look at, as the cinematography of Caleb Deschanel (dad of actresses Zoey and Emily) is consistently lovely.

    But then Farrell is surrounded by eccentric characters who are all hiding emotional or physical scars until he can face up to his own to find his real writer's voice. Idina Menzel's "Vera Rifkin" is a well-educated Jewish housekeeper whose California dreams (or borderline crazed fantasies) are for some reason now focused on being a writer's muse.

    Surprisingly, there is very little period music, maybe for budget reasons. A prominent and excellent selection is Artie Shaw's version of "Gloomy Sunday" which has its own legend of love and death. The score is sometimes intrusive and not as evocative of the clashing ethnic traditions as it could have been.
  • SammyK17 February 2006
    I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Towne give a talk in Toronto, in which he mused on his long and (mostly) illustrious career. From Chinatown to Personal Best to The Firm, he spouted off anecdotes and insights into Hollywood and the screen writing process in general.

    Then the audience was treated to a special preview screening of "Ask the Dust." It would seem that this has been a labour of love for Mr. Towne; one that has been several decades in the making. So in that sense, perhaps this film doesn't merit harsh criticism. The fact that Towne got it made is to be commended.

    It's not a bad film, by any right. It boasts two decent performances from its leads Salma Hayek and Colin Farrell, lush cinematography, meticulous period detail and a sumptuous score. All the elements of a great film are there. However, nothing really gels.

    My guess is that the source material is the film's ultimate downfall. It's dated, and contradictory. What begins as a pulpy potboiler in the vein of "The Postman Rings Twice" becomes a politically correct tirade against intolerance. Oh, and there's a healthy dose of "La Boheme" thrown in there for good measure.

    The first half of the film is intriguing as the characters' motivations are enigmatic and unpredictable. Hayek comes across as a latina femme fatale, while Farrell plays the flawed noirish anti-hero. L.A. itself is a character - one of a city at odds with its surroundings. The description of the sand (or dust) from the desert filling the air is particularly poignant.

    Halfway through, the film takes a perplexing turn. Turns out there is no mystery behind the motives of the leads. They just wanted to be loved/understood. Cue Hollywood clichés, and end scene. You can't help but be disappointed.

    Perhaps in the hands of a '70s auteur director like Polanski, Antonioni or Bob Rafelson, the source material could have been tweaked or restructured to yield a more surprising and challenging film. I even wondered what the film would have been like with a 70s screen icon like Jack Nicholson or Al Pacino in the lead role.
  • I read the book 8 years ago. I was moved by it. I saw the movie today, and everything in the movie was the way I pictured things in the book. This has got to be the best movie of the year. I thought it did justice to the great John Fante's classic. I can also see why Charles Bukowski liked Fante so much... he was one of the first writers that wrote about the LA of rooming houses, cheap hotels and seedy lounges... although, I feel Ask the Dust, the book and the movie, made it seem a little more romantic. I can't say enough about Colin Farrell's performance; this is by far my favorite. Salma, I have always liked. The sets and the costumes were also spot on. I was transported back in time. I liked the fact that there was very little profanity, which kept the integrity of the book and was most likely accurate for the period that was being portrayed. I think no matter what station in life you were in back then, you always tried to put on your best face. This was interesting, because it contrasted with the dingy atmosphere of 1930's LA.
  • Robert Towne's obvious love affair with John Fante's Depression Era novel, ASK THE DUST, is evident throughout this somewhat over-long film. While the story is a bit clumsy and self-indulgent with so many sidebars that the momentum of the movie gets bogged down in the telling, there are enough fine attributes to make it a recommended evening of reminiscence about Los Angeles, the City of the Angels in the 1930s.

    Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell) narrates the tale of a lad from Colorado with one published story in a magazine edited by H.L. Mencken who moves to Los Angeles' Bunker Hill apartments to write his big novel. The city of LA has never seemed so strange as it seems with Caleb Deschanel's magnificent photography outlining a city filled with dust blown miscreants - people with dreams at varying stages of dissolution. Arturo quickly becomes penniless, is pestered for rent by landlady Mrs. Hargraves (Dame Eileen Atkins) and for handouts by drunkard Hellfrick (Donald Sutherland), and still a virgin he plies his vision as a writer in a local café where he encounters the beautiful Camilla (way too much of a play on the character of Dumas' 'Camille'...). The two play a battle of wits and insults to cover their apparent infatuation with each other: Mexican Camilla is looking for a wealthy 'white man' to raise her out of her illiterate station and Arturo is looking for a sexual encounter to spur his writing.

    During their extended 'courting' Arturo is vamped by Vera Rivkin (Idina Menzel), a Jewish housekeeper with grossly deformed legs who dreams of a man who will call her beautiful, and in a touching encounter Arturo displays the kind vulnerability lying under his rather callous and naive exterior.

    Arturo and Camilla at last connect, and in a Laguna beach house they fall under the spell of love, a state that ends tragically, like the dust from the desert winds burying all hopes of the people of Southern California.

    The story is a bit clunky and the dialogue feels forced at times but it is always a pleasure to see the work of Farrell, Hayek, Atkins, and Sutherland. The true beauty of this truly beautiful film is in the atmosphere and the mood captured by Towne and Deschanel. Their work offers a mood piece that forgives some of the awkwardness of the threadbare story and shows off the actors well. The film may move a bit too slowly for some, but for others, this is a moment of history well captured. Grady Harp
  • As voluntary Cinema Manager at Coalville's Century Theatre, I'm always on the lookout for films of artistic quality which are not necessarily multiplex successes. I must confess I did read a couple of newspaper reviews when this film was first released in the UK, - they weren't particularly favourable but they did highlight the Robert Towne/Chinatown connection, - but I forgot all about it until I visited Italy for a weekend holiday in July. As I was passing a cinema in Verona, I was attracted by a couple of very attractive stills...for Ask The Dust. I decided to find out a bit more about the film when I returned home. After doing this, I felt it would be deserving of a screening at our little venue and I booked the film as soon as it was made available to the non-theatrical circuit. I eventually showed the film last night and I believe this was the first public showing in Leicestershire. I fully endorse the comments of others before me, - the lighting, sets, period sense and cinematography are absolutely marvellous, - just literally lovely to look at. I thought Colin Farrell was fine in the central role and am at a loss why he's come in for criticism from some quarters for this performance. Salma Hayek also scores in her sniping early scenes with Farrell and portrays well her character's fears and insecurities at a time when being Mexican was so obviously looked down upon (a very neat selection by Towne for the film excerpt in the cinema scene). Pity our own Eileen Atkins had such a tiny role. Although certainly not a commercial film, it does feature some memorable scenes such as the Long Beach earthquake and the moonlight swim among the crashing waves. And I really liked the idyllic seaside period enjoyed by the two (eventual!) lovers...with the little dog. A good sharp ending in true old-fashioned Hollywood style with a nod towards Camille, which apparently is not in the book, so I've read. After the film finished, I wasn't sure how my audience would react but comments were generally very favourable...and the fairly overt but well-handled sex scene had caused no offence...in fact I did get a couple of middle aged ladies offering glowing expressions with their references to Mr Farrell's appearance in that scene. A very good, quality film, lovingly made by Robert Towne...but one couldn't help thinking with a little more sharpness early on, it could have been even better. It's a piece that will linger in the memory though, in my opinion, and you can't say that about the majority of the modern day films.
  • The movie has the hallmark of old American writings, with lots of metaphors and big words for showing what is really everyday life. The script is original, unlike most of the films today, because is based on a book about the depression era in the US. The actors play very well and the images are very well done. I would venture to say the soundtrack was equally flawless, since it didn't bother me one bit (didn't really notice it, either).

    So what was wrong about the movie? I don't know. Maybe the pace, since it was two hours long. Or the subject, which was ... smooth. I mean, there were no real bumps in it. Everything just went by itself. In the tradition of "road writers" the character is almost an observer, left to his own emotions, but incapable of acting. I can't say that characters weren't original, but more in the direction of weirdly annoying rather than interesting.

    Bottom line: it's a drama. The romance itself is strong, not the diluted stuff you see nowadays, but I wouldn't call this a romantic movie. I suggest watching it when you feel philosophical or want something new, yet slow paced.
  • This is a portrayal of people living on the downside of society during the Great Depression; a nice period in time for movies, that offers a pleasantly raw and nihilistic ambiance. Both characters- the writer with more aspirations than experiences to actually write about (Colin Farrel) and the beautiful yet grieving Mexican beauty (Salma Hayek) - wander through the sad streets of L.A, fighting each other and mostly themselves. They love each other, but their own low self esteem and prejudices are standing in the way to form a happy couple. At the core this is just a tragic love story about unreachable love. Nothing wrong with that, of course!

    I really enjoyed the verbal confrontations between Hayek and Farrel. Their failure to communicate as equals is ''delightfully sad ''. At a certain point, as they start to understand each other better, they start to talk as normal people, and at that point the story didn't quite get to me as it did before. What remains is a somewhat melodramatic and predictable piece of drama. It isn't necessarily bad, just not that exciting anymore. Sometimes I even checked the time on my DVD player just to see if it would be over soon. Not a very good sign...;)

    Ah well, I enjoyed it too much to be cynical about it. It has some marvelous scenes in it, with an atmosphere that really brings back the sense of being in LA during the Great Depression. Farrel and Hayek fitted in their roles perfectly, and it is a pleasure to watch these two beautiful people interact with each other. Donald Sutherland steals the show with a short yet highly enjoyable role.
  • tieman6420 October 2011
    Warning: Spoilers
    "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." - Ernest Hemingway

    1939. John Fante writes "Ask the Dust", the tale of a young man embarking on a literary career. Years later a young Robert Towne stumbles upon and voraciously devours Fante's novels, most of which attempt to paint a portrait of early 20th century Los Angeles. Decades pass. Towne embarks on his own literary career. He scores big with his screenplay for Roman Polanski's "Chinatown", a LA set noir influenced and flavoured by Fante. Towne and Fante personally meet in the 1970s. Fante dies in 1983. Two decades later Towne adapts "Ask the Dust" for the screen.

    Those looking for a faithful adaptation of Fante's novel will be disappointed. Towne has been sculpted "Ask the Dusk" into a deliberate, five-way romance: a distillation of Towne's long-time love for Fante, Towne's adoration of noir (and its assorted signs, trinkets and decor), Towne and Fante's love for early Los Angeles (its history, its characters, locales and heartbeat), Towne's idealisation of the Romantic image of the struggling artist, and the in-film love affair between an artist (played by Colin Farrell) and a Mexican waitress (Salma Hayek).

    The film can't touch Nicholas Ray's "In A Lonely Place", but to those attuned to Towne's very specific yearnings it's a very good film. Towne's no visualist, but he's a good enough writer to capture the essence of a noirish LA, with its flapping curtains, decrepit apartments, barflies, lonely hearts, drunks, scroungers, con-men, palm trees and sun-baked pavements. It's a nostalgia rush, all of which is married to an idealised, heavily romanticised portrait of a struggling artist – super good looking of course – who spends his time bedding lush Mexican women (a bosomy Salma Hayek) or sitting valiantly at a typewriter, pounding prose on page while chiaroscuro lighting bathes his body.

    The most interesting thing about the film, though, is its narrative arc. Farrell, who plays our budding artist (a surrogate for both Towne and Fante), has a massive insecurity complex and hates himself because he's Italian. Of course many burgeoning artists develop their artistic talents as a means of assuaging personal issues (alienation, rootlessness, self esteem problems etc). Art them becomes a means of reconnection; the product of the outsider looking inwards. The marginality of the artist then often results in the artist developing, as a sort of self-defence mechanism, a sense of superiority or inflated ego ("I hate them for making me an outsider", "I want to be with them", "I am too good to be with them", "I'm a great artist", "superior", "going places", "don't need them", "so confused!" etc). As the artist must put him or herself far out on the line, and often stand alone, such an inflation – or an almost bipolar flip-flop from feelings of unworthiness to massive self-exaltation – then becomes all that keeps her or him persevering.

    Now the Farrell character, because he is supremely self-loathing, begins to lash out at anyone and anything that reminds him of his own lowliness. One of his targets is Salma Hayek's character (too beautiful for such a role), a poor Mexican waitress. She reminds him of that which he wishes to escape. By the film's end, however, Farrell drops his hate, his aloofness, and begins to identify with others, empathise and speak up for them. Being a writer then becomes not a mark of status, but a duty. This tension itself increasingly obsessed Fante, his books ostensibly revolving around arrogant characters seeking independence, fame and success, while actually serving as a vehicle to introduce readers to a city, its inhabitants and their plights. In the film, Farrell's re-connection with the marginalised - the very subjects of his future art - is symbolised as a series of romantic or sexual encounters with physically deformed women and society's dregs. The film is not about "immigration", "racism" and "poverty", as some claim, but something more generalised: artists or spectators forging empathic connections with their objects. As empathy by definition cannot function without imagination, you might say empathy is itself a kind of art. This is why it is important that Towne prolong the sex scene between Farrell and Hayek, and why it is important that it is at her most desirable moment that she cough and be sickly.

    Incidentally, evolutionary speaking, empathy or "sharing someone else's emotion" need not yield pro-social behaviour. If perceiving another person in a painful circumstance elicits personal, physical or emotional distress, then the observer may tend not to attend fully to the other's experience and as a result seem to lack sympathetic behaviours. As empathic concern can lead to personal distress, such "commections" are also often blocked out. This may explain why, statistically, excessively empathetic humans are less likely to be pro-social and perhaps why artists prefer to disconnect and engage with the world safely by proxy.

    8/10 – Interesting, but somewhat poorly directed and should have been better written. Will appeal only to noir-heads, artists and romantics. Seek out Fante's much copied novel. Worth one viewing.
  • The book is great, the movie is not. Only the beginning is done well. However, I was fairly impressed with Colin Farrell as Arturo Bandini and thought Salma Hayek pulled off a good Camilla. I was also impressed with the depiction of 1930's L.A. I thought that the environment was pulled off quite well. But then about half way through the movie veers away from the book and it becomes a clichéd and sappy love story. The ending is completely changed and loses everything that made the book great. I really am not sure why such a change would be made, this wasn't ever going to be a huge blockbuster film, so why make such a lousy rendition of Fante's work, that is, why try to give it a typical "Hollywood ending?"
  • This film is an intriguing modern-day film noir that catches your interest and holds it from beginning to the end. It takes place in Depression era Los Angeles - the perfect place for lost souls. Arturo and Camilla - beautifully played by Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek - are young and intelligent but victims of clearly outspoken prejudice against their family heritages; his being Italian and hers being Mexican. One of the incredible ironies of the open prejudice of the times is that Arturo and Camilla, even though very much attracted to each other, act in prejudicial ways against each other. It becomes clear early on that these expressions of dislike hide the passion simmering beneath the surface. That passion forms the crux of the story.

    In the classic noir style, Arturo is a budding writer who has traveled to California to seek his fortune and there are many scenes showing him beating away at his typewriter in an effort to forge a great American tale. Farrell does an excellent job at showing both the innocent and not-so-innocent, shy and bravado sides of Arturo's personality.

    The ever so beautiful Hayek is perfect as the Mexican girl who wants to become "respectable" by marrying an Anglo. Unfortunately, she falls for Arturo - an Italian and definitely not "respectable" in the United States of that time.

    Ask the Dust is more than just a delicious love story of two beautiful, passionate people. It is also a well-produced, atmospheric look at an era in which the world was all too quick to condemn because of genetic heritage.
  • "I am a lover of beasts and men." So Colin Farrell's writer, Arturo Bandini, reveals his humanistic longings and along the way his inexperience with humans. His love is the Mexican beauty Camilla, played better than Katy Jurado ever could by Salma Hyeck, with whom he fights from the cute meeting to the very end. But it is a love nevertheless, with a strength often given only to those who fight passionately.

    This is 1935 LA, land of love and art, with a whole bunch of racism thrown in between the abstractions. Arturo's being Italian throws a certain doubt on whether he could eventually marry this Mexican Camilla. Ask the Dust subtly explores a melting pot of racism, of course including the ever present persecution of the Jews. In fact, no one in the film has found a mate or a home yet anyway, so loneliness and disenfranchisement are always there.

    Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel's shots are each a marvel of painterly cinema, just the right brownish, noirish lighting and shadows to create a marginal world of dream and destitution where only love could create wealth. And what a love. These two leads are to the camera born, their dark good looks making them as much brother and sister as reluctant lovers. Farrell speaks almost as if he is narrating, which he does as well; his intonations are weighty in sotto voce, uncharacteristic of the more flamboyant characters he is used to playing. Hyeck has lusty dignity with a spicy stubbornness that makes you believe she is worthy of marrying this gringo and living happily ever after.

    But that ending is the clichéd part of the story, as if all stories about writers must end with a tragedy. Towne, however, tempers the darkness with hope, an aspiration in abundant supply in lala land, but the compromised kind reminding us at the end of his towering Chinatown that it's out of our hands.
  • AnnieLuvsRavens10 March 2006
    I couldn't understand why many critics attacked this movie, I thought it was so gripping and heartbreaking.

    Idina Menzel, Colin Farrell and mainly Salma Hayek give so strong and convincing performances that the minor flaws in the film can be overlooked. The cinematography, so talked on the reviews is indeed beautiful and also are the art direction and costumes.

    The beach scene is so intense and sexy that I'm sure it will become in of those scenes people talk for years.

    Arturo Bandini never looked more handsome with Colin Farrell playing it with restrain and wit. He may be the cause why some people are bashing the film but he shows how much of a great actor he is.

    Salma Hayek brings a touching performance, one so powerful that sticks with you when the film is over.

    Donald Sutherland, Justin Kirk and Eileen Atkins get little to do but they do it as best as they can. Idina Menzel is the supporting cast member that stands out.

    The movie belongs to Los Angeles, is a great homage to the city and its culture and history.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    One of the other commenters mentioned that they almost walked out. If I hadn't been with my wife, who wanted to stay, I would have left. It's a shame, too, because I think it could have been a good movie. But this is easily one of the worst adapted screenplays I've ever seen. It starts out nowhere and it goes nowhere (I would say it goes nowhere fast, but it really goes nowhere slow...painfully slow). From time to time there are hints that something interesting might happen, or that there is potentially some depth underneath one of the characters, but that's all we get - hints. There is not a single payoff or revelation in the entire movie. Not that I need a slick plot to be entertained...I love a good meandering character study as much as the next indie buff. But these characters add up to nothing. For the entire duration of the film you don't care what happens to a single one of them. As a matter of fact, you almost start hoping they die, because at least a death might be more interesting than watching their inexplicable behavior, which is so strange and unpredictable that you'd think it in itself would be compelling, but it's not. Instead of quirky, noir-esquire characters acting in hard-boiled fashion, you simply recognize it immediately for what it is: a bunch of talented but miscast actors, brooding and raising their eyebrows while reading bizarre dialogue without a hint of relevant context. All this for two plodding, painfully slow hours. Awful.
  • ErikOD27 March 2006
    This is a movie that demonstrates that mood and music and texture aren't enough to make a good film. Sure, the viewer is treated to numerous fine scenes of Los Angeles in the thirties--I especially liked the view of the trolley approaching the tunnel, and the tram rising up the hillside--but in a sense this fine cinematography is self-defeating, because it creates a mood that "something's going to happen"--and nothing does. The script too keeps feinting toward some plot or action or trauma--and time after time not delivering. Not even delivering the (I assume) theme of the movie, the characters' essential misfit. The lead actors, both too pretty for their roles, didn't convey any repression or agony, and the script didn't expose us to any.

    Now, Donald Sutherland? That's another story. His character was so well fashioned, so perfectly played, that I wanted the camera to follow him.
  • Funnily enough.. I felt something totally different...I don't really think that "seriousness" is the one thing which decides about terming something good or bad. The previous comment was kind of thought-provoking,though a bit too deeply concerned...There will always be a fairly big gap between the books and their movie versions...And that's what is happening here...The only thing I can say is that do not expect the same emotions...this movie is promising...just have to grasp it on the good side, that is seeing it as a separate story without prejudices...maybe it is not what it should, but still good! (Lots better than many others!) And to add something about the actors, nevertheless the Hollywood-like shell around, they both had great roles in the past! :) Anyway, I loved it! Even the trailer had a fascinating atmosphere and the actors were a good choice, for me they fitted....!
  • This movie worked very well for me. The Performances of Farrell as Bandini and Salma Hayek were very strong with the Irishman giving one of his best performances as the bullish and cocky yet vulnerable writer. I've always been impressed with Hayek from seeing her first in Desperado and she does not disappoint in this. She exudes a great sexuality but with a playful quality that holds a viewers attention throughout. She makes you believe in her Camilla Lopez.

    Towne has given a great feel to his film with an exceptionally constructed Set of thirties Los Angeles and some beautifully put together and lit scenes and an accurate wardrobe of the time. Save for the slightly obvious ending the film plays out well and with enough of a message inside it but nothing that slides the actors off into tedium, boredom or repetition. I have to say also, that the movie was better with a second viewing and I was really rooting for Arturo and Camilla to find exactly what they were looking for. Overall I recommend Ask the Dust as well crafted and underrated piece.
  • It has been ages since Robert Towne directed a new film, and Ask the Dust did not fail the anticipation of fans who love and appreciate his previous production, such as Tequila Sunrise and Without Limits.

    Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek makes up the new pair of silver screen couple, with the background set in the Depression Era of US in the 30's. Farrell takes up the role of Arturo Bandini, an Italian author living in a cheap motel in Los Angeles, while Hayek plays a Mexican waitress, Camilla, who wants to marry an rich American for a better life. Life seems to be the same for them, until they met each other in a café where Camilla works. Arturo was inspired by Camilla, which leads him to wrote more stories, and at the same time, making him realize who he loves eventually.

    Towne brought out the lives and problems of Arturo and Camilla well, where a young author will never spare much thought on how will he survive tomorrow by spending lots of money on luxury after he gotten his pay, while she will do anything to get herself married to an American for a better life.

    Ask the Dust also brought out one point faced in the previous century: racism. Camilla was despised by the Americans for she trying to get herself hooked up to an American for a better life where she is a Mexican. Somehow, it was described in brief, rather than a main idea in a whole story.

    It is not often that the audience would get to see Farrell playing a sentimental role in his acting career. While playing a bisexual trapped in between the love of his homosexual best friend and his best friend's female roommate in A Home At the End of the World (2004), Ask the Dust gives Farrell a greater chance of exploration of a romantic and sentimental man. Hayek, on the other hand, was given a fair share of appearance in the story. Not really the best among her previous films, but she makes the story alive. Keep a look out for the scene where both Farrell and Hayek swims in the beach nude, which is one of the attraction of the film, where this scene starts their romance.

    Veteran actor Donald Sutherland appears as a special appearance rather than a supporting role, where he plays Hellfrick, Arturo's neighbour. Not much room was given to Sutherland, for his role was too redundant, where he appears less than 15 minutes in the whole film.

    In all, Ask the Dust has not failed that badly, and it was definitely worth the 8 years wait from Towne.
  • Based on other comments I expected a film noir, but there seems to be some general confusion between era and genre. Just because something is set in the 30s LA with lots of voice-over doesn't make it noir.

    There's no noir-ish betrayal here unless one counts racism once again disrupting the American Dream. Too often movies depict the discord in Black & White relations, when in SoCal there's a long history of Euro-Americans measuring the blood of Mestizos and using it to divide & conquer them. Camilla strikes me as a more interesting character than the flat depiction of the Latina housekeeper in Crash who seems to have no life other than waiting for Sandra Bullock's character to become enlightened.

    The main problem with Ask the Dust is that most people will not allow themselves to recognize California's racism. Granted, Ask the Dust does little to address corruption of Latin America. The racism associated with the current border crisis is historical. Ask the Dust isn't so much an epic romance as it is a personal romance that hits close to home for inter-racial families (epic romances tend to let characters off the hook by sweeping them away in historical movements; here we have only Arturo & Camilla).

    To be sure, the poetry of the wave-riding scene could have been mis-directed toward some statement about historical movements, but Towne keeps the story centered on the characters. Are there other great moments? Well, I'll never look at Joan Blondell the same way. The excerpt of her dialog about the benefits of being "white" was devastating. Great lines throughout. Donald Sutherland's "Keep going or otherwise you'll die in Los Angeles like the rest of us" arced strongly from Arturo's writing to his evolution as an empathetic human being. Perhaps the film is too much about the writing life, but Camilla's line "Save your imagination for your work. Don't waste it on me when you don't have to" was simultaneously erotic and humane, something the overwhelming majority of contemporary films have trouble with. It's at that erotic moment she helps him face the duality of his racism and write more honestly than he had before.

    Why do men dislike this movie so much more than women do? Maybe we're a Man Show nation that was sorry the story wasn't more about the Sammy White character (how about that for an ironic name?). All I can say is thank you Mr. Farrell for recently giving us two challenging movies about what it really means to be an American (Ask the Dust & New World).
  • John Fante wrote a great book called ask the dust and Hollywood Screenwriter Robert Towne managed to make an efficient translation of The eclectic novel into the big screen.

    Relying on the powerful performances of his cast, the film depends mostly on the background of Los Angeles as the magnificent city of Dreams and ambition where lonely souls collide day after day.

    I particularly loved the way racism is portrayed on the film, not in The melodramatic way of last year's crash but as disease.

    Salma Hayek is terrific as the smoldering Camilla Lopez, a temptress Decided to rise above her status by marrying a blond American. Colin Farrell is subtle and sincere as the complex Arturo Bandini (one of his Best performances to date). Idina Menzel steals the show in her brief Scenes.

    Overall, the film loses when it goes far apart from the novel but the Final product is so exceptionally crafted that are willing to forgive The writer.
  • Given the history of the director of this movie, it is hard to believe that this was such a painfully bad movie to sit through. I was at the European premiere last night and one of the Executive Producers was there. He was yet to see the movie and, boy, was he in for a surprise. I have not read the book that this is based upon, nor do I know if it highly rated or appreciated, but I have read "Captain Correlli's Mandolin" and given how poorly that was adapted for screen and how bad this movie was, I can only presume that something similar has happened here. The acting wasn't bad albeit that there were a couple-too-many raised eyebrows from Farrell. Honestly, I can't believed how little I cared for any character in this movie. Situations play out on the screen in an empty sequence of nothingness. Donald Sutherland's part comprises a few scenes where he opens a door, says something and closes it again. I kept looking at my watch when I wasn't cringing at the dialogue on the screen. I have never walked out on a movie but I was tempted to start during this. I gave this movie a score of '2' for reasons which seem horrendously shallow to me but these are the best things that I can say about this movie. The first is that I really enjoyed the all-too-short earthquake scene and the second is that Salma Hayek got naked and looked beautiful. I can say little else positive about this movie. Don't ask the dust anything, it can't talk!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I thought ''Ask the Dust'' would be a nice movie,but I need to say that it doesn't have anything special, it is an ordinary romantic movie with some drama during the Great Depression in the 30's. Some things are so obvious, like when you see the character Camilla Lopez coughing and blood splits out, you know she is going to die, eventually. (By the way, it remembered me the scene where Satine, from Moulin Rouge, is sick of tuberculosis and coughing a lot, splitting blood in a hankie like Camilla)

    PS1:I am surprised to see Tom Cruise is one of the producers of this movie.

    PS2: No, I didn't read the book. But the theme is interesting. This thing about being from other country and trying to settle down in other place interests me a lot. And I think it so beautiful that both Camilla, who wanted a Caucasian American to marry and share his name, and Arturo, who also wanted a blonde American to marry, fall in love, showing that in the end, those things doesn't matter at all.
  • A film starring Salma Hayek and Colin Farrell, two respected and talented actors, sounds like a great idea. An independent film sounds even better. The studios will control less of the content allowing the actors and writers and director more creativity.

    But then why is this movie so bland? Ask the dust.

    This film assumes right off the bat that we are deeply invested in the characters. No one is given a proper back story, so we don't ever know why the characters act the way they do.

    Explanations for physical and emotional scars are left to our imagination, if you still have one left at the end of this movie.

    I told a friend that I went to see this film, and that I thought it was awful.

    Her question: "Not even Colin Farrell could save it?" My response: "Not even Colin Farrell's ass could save it."
  • I love the depiction of the 30s and 40s in film. I love Salma Hayek. I was more than ready to love this picture. but . . .

    BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO ! ! ! !! !

    No sir, nothing good about this. The only entertaining aspect for me was Colin Farrell's character is an insecure writer and this screenplay, despite tackling the juicy subject of racism, approaches the audience in the fashion of an ABC Afterschool Special.

    The only person who didn't sound like he was "acting' was Sutherland, and his minutes were few.

    Stale approach to a tired plot.
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