Tuesday, January 16, 2007

DVD Diary - Ask the Dust

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The Netflix wrapper on top of the TV mocked me for weeks, but a quiet Tuesday night finally provided me an opportunity to watch Ask the Dust (d. Robert Towne), an adaptation of John Fante's 1939 novel.

Much reviled upon it's release in 2006, I had seen it on a few worst-of lists. Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell, horribly miscast) is a struggling writer living in L.A. Things start to turn around when he meets Camilla (Salma Hayek), an illiterate waitress who becomes his lover and muse. Bandini sells a few short stories (critic Richard Schickel does a voice cameo as H.L. Mencken) and starts work on a novel.

I don't really know what to say about Ask the Dust, which really is quite bad. Bandini is idealized, ultra-masculine yet sensitive, practically irresistible to women; Idina Menzel plays an admirer who dies in an earthquake only minutes after Bandini leaves her bed. There's virtually no plot, and Farrell looks lost. I debated listening to the commentary (Robert Towne is the guy who wrote Chinatown after all), but I was ready to seal up that envelope minutes after the movie was over.

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