5.8/10
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Ask the Dust (2006)

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2:21 | Trailer
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.

Director:

Robert Towne

Writers:

Robert Towne (screenplay), John Fante (novel)
1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Colin Farrell ... Arturo Bandini
Salma Hayek ... Camilla
Donald Sutherland ... Hellfrick
Eileen Atkins ... Mrs. Hargraves
Idina Menzel ... Vera Rivkin
Justin Kirk ... Sammy
Jeremy Crutchley ... Solomon
Ronald France Ronald France ... Columbia Sweeper
Dion Basco ... Filipino Houseboy
Donna Mosley Donna Mosley ... Red Headed Girl
Paul Rylander Paul Rylander ... Harold the Bartender
Natasha Staples Natasha Staples ... Denver Librarian
Wayne Harrison Wayne Harrison ... Heilman
Yasuhiro Yoshimura Yasuhiro Yoshimura ... Japanese Vegetable Man (as Yoshimura Yasuhiro)
Sid Sid ... Willie the Dog
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Storyline

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 <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Passion and ambition drive two dreamers in 1930s LA. Their love affair is ferocious and hot-blooded as they fight the city and themselves to make their dreams come true.

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some sexuality, nudity and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | Germany

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

13 April 2006 (Thailand) See more »

Also Known As:

Pregúntale al viento See more »

Filming Locations:

South Africa See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$68,779, 12 March 2006

Gross USA:

$743,847

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$2,460,057
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | DTS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Idina Menzel had to leave her starring role in the Broadway show "Wicked" for a few weeks to film in South Africa. See more »

Quotes

Arturo Bandini: What does happiness mean to you Camilla?
Camilla: That you can fall in love with whoever you want to, and not feel ashamed of it.
See more »

Connections

References Dames (1934) See more »

Soundtracks

I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire
by Bennie Benjamin, Eddie Durham, Sol Marcus and Eddie Seiler
Performed by Jess Harnell
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Beautiful Looking Depression Era L.A. Hosts Ethnic Clashing American Dreams and Sexy Romance
20 March 2006 | by noraleeSee all my reviews

"Ask the Dust" has excellent elements that almost come together as a whole.

Like "End of the Affair" and "The White Countess", it surrounds a fraught love affair with exquisite looking period recreation that almost sucks the life out of it. (As with those films, the senior citizens at my matinée really enjoyed the period aspect.) Set in a sepia-tinged Depression-era Los Angeles of polluted palm trees, it is populated equally by youthful blond California girls and boys and old people at the end of the continent and their lines, as symbolized by Donald Sutherland's begging boarding house neighbor, like a ghost from his role in "The Day of the Locust".

What saves the film is the frank dialog and odd sparks between Colin Farrell, as repressed Italian-American writer from Colorado, novelist John Fante's alter ego with the even more ethnically redolent name of "Arturo Bandini", and Salma Hayak as a non-stereotyped Mexican spitfire "Camilla Lopez". Their repartee about their biases is raw and fresh.

Significantly, they are not the usual naive teen lovers, but are adults with mileage who are striving to change the trajectory of their lives. In this discrimination-filled, pre-celebration of the melting pot/rainbow environment (heavy-handedly demonstrated such as by their viewing Ruby Keeler's famous line from "Dames" "I'm free, white, and 21."), both are trying to make it in a specific image of the American Dream, a non-ethnic one, though we hear very little about their own sense of their ethnic identity. She is even dating a nasty guy named White in the vain hope of obtaining a green card and citizenship.

Hayak's character is the easier to understand, as we see her exuberate in vibrant blue moonlight when she feels free with him, especially in vivid ocean scenes (she is absolutely stunning swimming naked), and then in bright light at a seashore idyll. This gorgeous scene gives "From Here to Eternity" a run for its money as the sexiest crashing of waves coupling in the movies. Though after all her sexually aggressive seduction efforts, their lovemaking is lit beautifully in the dark but conventionally choreographed as I expected her to demand more equality in bed. But then she's already started coughing with Movie Star Disease, even if it's explained more in the plot than usual.

Even with his constant florid more than bordering on pretentious narration, sometimes in an exaggerated lower register, of his writing efforts (with the usual scenes of paper being ripped out a manual typewriter as he receives encouragement from H. L. Mencken) that doesn't really thematically integrate into the film until the end, it is harder to understand why it takes so long to get his uptight clothes off despite many importunings. There is an unusually sweet flirtation over literacy, but it seemed more like condescension on his part, especially to help her get citizenship, than sharing with her his love of words. The non-narrated scenes are a relief and are beautiful to look at, as the cinematography of Caleb Deschanel (dad of actresses Zoey and Emily) is consistently lovely.

But then Farrell is surrounded by eccentric characters who are all hiding emotional or physical scars until he can face up to his own to find his real writer's voice. Idina Menzel's "Vera Rifkin" is a well-educated Jewish housekeeper whose California dreams (or borderline crazed fantasies) are for some reason now focused on being a writer's muse.

Surprisingly, there is very little period music, maybe for budget reasons. A prominent and excellent selection is Artie Shaw's version of "Gloomy Sunday" which has its own legend of love and death. The score is sometimes intrusive and not as evocative of the clashing ethnic traditions as it could have been.


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