Were it not for a certain heartthrob du jour appearing in this sultry biopic of Salvador Dalí’s student days, Little Ashes might have passed quietly under the radar.
But since wrapping on this, leading man Robert Pattinson has become global teen catnip thanks to Twilight, so the crafty release date delay should ensure a built-in audience of quivering schoolgirls looking for their ‘R-Pattz’ fix.
They’ll be in for a shock. There’s no dreamy neck-nibbling to be had here – just good honest arthouse gay sex, masturbation and nudity.
Taking memories from Dalí’s contradicting autobiographies and set against the rise of Fascism, Philippa Goslett’s screenplay weaves an intriguing tale of lust, ambition and liberalism as Dalí (Pattinson) metamorphasises from shy dandy arriving at art school in ’20s Madrid to his bonkers bug-eyed persona – via an infatuation with fellow student, writer Federico Lorca (Javier Beltrán).
Pattinson proves his range exceeds looking sexy with fangs as he throws himself into the role with credible Spanish accent, pube-flashing and maniacal paint-splattering.
Though he’s confessed to being uneasy acting his gay love scenes, he’s convincing in (relatively tame) mano-a-mano clinches; and by the time he’s poncing about Paris in the trademark Dalí moustache he’s deliciously repellent and narcissistic – a nation of teenagers will weep.
What’s more, Pattinson is easily matched by newcomer Beltrán whose quiet, nuanced performance provides the smouldering heart of the pair’s bromance. But as with most artist bios, the unique genius of Dalí is a tricky beast to translate to screen, leaving director Paul Morrison (Wondrous Oblivion) to essentially paint a gorgeous mood piece with stunning images of the artist’s hometown, beautifully shot interpretations of Lorca’s poetry and smoky evocations of Europe’s pre-war avant-garde scene. Muy bonita!
Leaving questions dangling, this isn’t the definitive take on Dalí art-lovers may crave. Still, shot on a shoestring, it’s nevertheless a lush, involving period drama that proves there are other strings to Pattinson’s bow.
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