Little Ashes Review

There are two main groups of people who will be greatly interested in the DVD release of Paul Morrison’s Little Ashes – those who are fans of pin-up movie star Robert Pattinson (Twilight), and those who are interested in the film’s depiction of a fascinating period in the cultural history of Spain, when Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí and Federico García Lorca, meeting at university in Madrid in the 1920s, would plan their assault on the establishments through cinema, literature and art, even as the repressive regime of Franco was coming into power. It’s perhaps only the fanbase of Pattison however that will be entirely satisfied with the film.

The young actor takes on the considerable challenge of portraying the larger-than-life character of Salvador Dalí, the film built around an unconventional homosexual relationship the eccentric artist in his later years would claim to have had with the revered poet Lorca. Pattinson rises to the challenge, so to speak, managing to voiding caricature for a more nuanced performance that travels from extreme shyness to wild exhibitionism, his inner confusion and conflicting emotions expressed in twitchy mannerisms.

While the period is well evoked – handsomely shot with fine production values despite the limitations of the budget – the film is less successful in evoking the historical background of Spain during the key period of Franco’s rise to power, and the choice of filming in English is also questionable. Its interest is certainly on the relationships between the three men, but the importance of their work and the reaction its anti-establishment nature would provoke is inadequately covered, the film consequently losing much of the tragedy of Lorca’s fate. If it fails to grasp the historical, political, social and cultural significance of the writer’s death, it does nonetheless still have an impact on a human level.

(A fuller review of the film can be found here)

The Disc: An impressive transfer of the film from Kaleidoscope. The film might be a shade duller and darker than the theatrical presentation of the film, but the transfer handles the blacks and shadows extremely well, with good detail. Colouration is fine, even in the dim interiors, but exteriors perhaps not quite as vivid as one would expect. Dialogue is not perfectly clear on the surround mix, but this could partly be accounted for by the accents, otherwise the 5.1 mix is warm and vibrant, with good separation for the music score and ambient noises. There are no subtitles for the film, which is in English throughout. Disappointingly, no extra features when some background on the making of the film and the historical context would have been appreciated.

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