Mexican beauty Camilla hopes to rise above her station by marrying a wealthy American. That is complicated by meeting Arturo Bandini, a first-generation Italian hoping to land a writing career and a blue-eyed blonde on his arm.
L.A. in the early 1930's: racism, poverty, and disease color the Bunker Hill neighborhood where Arturo Bandini, a lover of men and beasts alike, has arrived from Colorado to write the great Los Angeles novel. After six months and down to his last nickel, he orders a cup of coffee, served by Camilla Lopez, beautiful, self-possessed, and Mexican. Arturo gets advice, encouragement, and an occasional check from H.L. Mencken, so he keeps writing and he keeps seeing Camilla. But, he's mean to her for no apparent reason, so the relationship sputters. A housekeeper from back East suggests a way out of his jealously and fears. "Camilla Bandini": is it in the cards? Written by
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.
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