Ask the Dust
Ask the Dust
Written and directed by Robert Towne who wrote "Chinatown," long cited as one of Hollywood's great screenplays, "Ask the Dust" tells the story of Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell), a young Italian-American from Colorado struggling to make his name as a fiction writer in 1930s Los Angeles. Writer's block eventually brings Arturo down to his last nickel, which he decides to spend in a local cafe. Enter Camilla Lopez (Salma Hayek), the sultry Mexican waitress who serves him a bad cup of coffee, an incident that sparks one of many interminable rounds of racist insults and epithets and simultaneously stirs our hero's creative impulse. Their ensuing love affair is as torturous as the still heat of a California desert. Camilla's classic come-on: "Come here, I want to show you something." Eventually, our couple shacks up in a beach cottage where Arturo begins a novel, teaches Camilla to read, and prepares her for the naturalization exam. Here, the story wanders so aimlessly that I was struck by ideas for alternative titles such as "Ask the Director What He Was Thinking." Despite its ambitions to explore race relations between old and new immigrants pursuing the American Dream, "Ask the Dust" is consistently hindered by a maudlin sentimentality that it just couldn't dust off.
( Sherwin Das )
Based on John Fante's novel about life, love and loathing in 1930s' Los Angeles, "Ask the Dust" is an enjoyable but ultimately insubstantial film. Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell) is an ambitious young writer holed up in a seedy hotel whose single-minded aim is to write a great novel. But it's love at first sight when he encounters beautiful Mexican waitress Camilla Lopez (Salma Hayek) in a pair of tattered sandals. "Ask the Dust" has a pleasantly languid charm but only because of the nostalgia it evokes for a mythical L.A. of floppy-haired writers with cigarettes dangling out of their sweaty lips while they feverishly tap away at typewriters. Although Farrell and Hayek both turn in decent performances as alienated lovers, the dialogue lingers uncomfortably on the ludicrous. Farrell narrates the story in the masculine poetics of film noir but the words mostly ring hollow. And when Hayek starts demurely coughing into a handkerchief halfway through the film, we wearily sigh at the all-too-familiar tragedy awaiting the writer and his quarrelsome muse. But the film lovingly evokes a very special time and place and you can almost smell the celluloid eucalyptus in the air. Think of it as a cheesy homage to film noir and you can't go wrong.
1/2( Tim Ochser )
"Tris Musketieri" is a stop-motion animated film made in Latvia, modest in comparison to some of the big budget computer animation we've come to expect from Disney and Pixar. Focusing on one section of Dumas' classic tale, the film depicts the attempts of Cardinal Richelieu, conniving adviser to the pliable Louis XIII, to expose an affair between the queen and the Duke of Buckingham. The queen's confidante asks her own lover, D'Artagnan, a nobleman who dreams of joining the king's musketeers, to prevent the scandal from being revealed. I appreciated all the painstaking work, done by hand, that must have gone into bringing these puppets to life. Richelieu and the King are inventively crafted figures with bulging eyes and wonderfully large noses. D'Artagnan and the three musketeers, however, are rather indistinguishable from one another, and at times I was left wondering which musketeer was which. One comic highlight: a royal mail service comprised of reluctant messenger crows intermittently catapulted out of the castle windows. It's debatable whether even a light-hearted film about infidelity and intrigue set in 17th-century France makes for good family entertainment. Don't expect "Shrek" or "Madagascar." But as a locally-produced film which recreates a classic story using a medium from a bygone era, "Tris Musketieri" is well worth your time.
( Sherwin Das )
"Tris Musketieri" is a pleasantly innocuous and humorous Latvian animation feature film. The simple clay characters, with their rigid movements and over-exaggerated eyes, glow with Soviet clay-animation nostalgia. Set in 17th century France, the three musketeers - Atoss, Portoss and Aramiss 's find themselves caught in duel after duel and romantic escapade after romantic escapade. When the handsome young d'Artagnan arrives in Paris and falls in love with his housemaster's wife, Mrs. Bonasieux, the sword-wielding really picks up. Directed by Janis Cimermanis and a team of animators from Latvia, Denmark and the UK, "Tris Musketieri" was five years in the making. And the artists' devotion shows. The characters were absolutely heart warming, with their naive expressions and bulbous noses. If only more Latvian actors could be as subtly animated as these clay figures. And as innocently stupid as the jokes may have been, I actually found myself chuckling along in childish delight. But it was the film's gritty detail that won me over in the end. From the musketeers' wiry hair to the cardboard paper ballroom to the fuzzy felt grass, the animation is wonderfully earthy. I should also add that it's refreshing to see a Latvian animation film that doesn't resemble the enactment of a Freudian nightmare. This one is definitely kiddy-friendly.
( Tim Ochser )