Friday, 31 July 2009

Vampire Guy Is A Little Stiff As Dali

If the sight of “Twilight” hottie Robert Pattinson in a comical, pencil-thin mustache, oversized ruffly collar and maniacally bugged-out eyes piques your interest, then go see “Little Ashes.”

But if you'd like to know about the famously eccentric Spanish psyche of surrealist artist Salvador Dali, whom Pattinson plays, you're better off consulting written biographies. “Little Ashes” does nothing to illuminate the iconic Spanish artist.

Pattinson's decision to play a young, sexually confused Dali seems a calculated attempt to separate himself from his dreamboat vampire character in 'tween phenomenon “Twilight.” Were he a more versatile actor, it might have been a good career move, but his blandly broad portrayal amuses more than enlightens. Co-star Javier Beltran, on the other hand, imbues his character, tortured poet/playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, with nuance and poignancy.

Set in Spain during the politically turbulent 1920s and '30s, the story focuses mainly on the youthful friendship and budding romance between Dali and Lorca. Filmmaker Luis Bunuel (Matthew McNulty) is a peripheral member of their artsy clique. Bunuel is portrayed as a homophobic manipulator who lures the malleable Dali away from Lorca with promises of fame in Paris.

The meandering film has moments of urgency, particularly when it focuses on Lorca, his growing politicization and the mystery surrounding his disappearance. But that arrives too late to redeem what has gone before.

The dialogue is stilted in an attempt to be profound. Most of the actors speak English with Spanish accents, except Pattinson, who employs a pretentious kooky-speak, accompanied by wild-eyed expressions. When he's emotional, he throws dark paint on a canvas and all over himself. Rage, frustration, sadness? It's anybody's guess.


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