Ask the Dust
The movie Ask the Dust was
based on the book Ask the Dust.
Read More About This Movie
Adapted from the acclaimed 1939 novel by John Fante, Ask the Dust represents a 30-year labor of love for Robert Towne, the Oscar®-winning screenwriter of Chinatown. It's easy to see why Towne was drawn to Fante's classic tale of ill-fated romance in Depre... Read More
Adapted from the acclaimed 1939 novel by John Fante, Ask the Dust represents a 30-year labor of love for Robert Towne, the Oscar®-winning screenwriter of Chinatown. It's easy to see why Towne was drawn to Fante's classic tale of ill-fated romance in Depression-era Los Angeles: It's a tenacious, hard-scrabble valentine to Towne's beloved city, to the lonely craft of writing, and to the elusive whims of love. Towne must have been inspired by the challenge of capturing the inner life and outer environs of Fante's literary hero, struggling writer Aturo Bandini (played by Colin Farrell), as he arrives in L.A. circa 1932, sells occasional stories to legendary American Mercury editor H.L. Mencken (heard only in voice-overs provided by film critic Richard Schickel), lives in the seedy Alta Loma hotel in the dusty neighborhood of Bunker Hill (where a fellow resident is played by Donald Sutherland), and falls into a stormy relationship with Camilla (Salma Hayek), a Mexican waitress who shares Bandini's immigrant dreams for a better life in sunny California. There are good times and bad in this passionately combative romance (and Hayek has never been more sensuously appealing onscreen), and Towne has done a perfect job of capturing an arid combination of hope, depression, and artistic ambition, working in fruitful collaboration with celebrated cinematographer Caleb Deschanel (The Black Stallion) on meticulously authentic Depression-era sets built on location (of all places) in South Africa. Ask the Dust never fully succeeds as an emotionally involving drama (the lives of writers are notoriously difficult to translate to film), but there's something undeniably seductive about this curious and great-looking film... and we're not just talking about Farrell and Hayek cavorting naked in the ocean. Even that memorable scene is infused with the threat of broken dreams, as if Towne were reminding us (and himself) that nothing good comes without sacrifice.--Jeff Shannon