little ashes is a melodrama about the gay closet focusing on poet frederico garcía lorca's love for painter salvador dalí when both were students just before the spanish civil war. as schoolmate luis buñuel womanizes in the distance, lorca and dalí torment and tease each other due to social and personal repression. director paul morrison and screenwriter philippa goslett aren't stupidly pc like kirby dick; instead, being starstruck weakens their love story.
superficial celebrity-ogling (a form of gossip-mongering) gets in the way of portraying lorca, dalí and buñuel as individuals forging their sexual identities. this pre-fame prism lacks the sense of danger that might explain lorca's daring and dalí's deviousness as two sides of the same closet crisis. robert pattinson braves dalí's eccentricity and grows with it. javier beltrán makes lorca more priggish than heroic. the filmmakers sabotage their political sympathies with dull casting. their aesthetics are also drab. imitation surrealist montages-from lorca and dalí swimming in azure pools, b and w études in the style of un chien andalou (even pilfering the famous eyeball slashing)-don't make up for the overall merchant-ivory sense of classy banality (youthful dalliance in college linens).
just recently, john maybury's edge of love captured the personal folly of pioneering artists and, of course, alan rudolph's investigating sex and the moderns set the bar for films about cultural innovators who move the culture forward despite their messy lives. little ashes is named after a dalí painting inspired by lorca, but in this rarefied genre, the real masterpiece is rudolph's dorothy parker bio, mrs. parker and the vicious circle. -- little ashes directed by paul morrison runtime: 112 min.