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Ask the Dust

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It’s LA, the 1930s, and struggling writer Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell) has just moved into a seedy hotel room, complete with hideous wallpaper and a weird, interfering next-door neighbour. Hasn’t he seen ‘Barton Fink’? In fact, Robert Towne’s adaptation of John Fante’s semi-autobiographical novel soon strikes a tone all its own when Bandini meets fiery Mexican waitress Camilla (Salma Hayek). What starts out as a commentary on California’s troubled history of race relations – the Italian-American Bandini belittles Camilla’s attempts to win US citizenship – gradually turns to torrid romance. Although ‘Chinatown’ writer Towne lovingly depicts the Depression-era LA setting (actually shot in South Africa), the film misfires. The love story, when it comes, is overheated (including idyllic sojourns in a beachside cottage, naked moonlit swims and deathbed declarations), while the suffering of LA’s Latino inhabitants is reduced to scenes of Farrell and Hayek hurling racial abuse at one another like wisecracks in a screwball partnership. ‘I’m bored with your Mexican remarks,’ Hayek spits at Farrell after yet another of his anti-Hispanic taunts. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday June 2 2006
Duration: 117 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Robert Towne
Screenwriter: Robert Towne
Cast: Colin Farrell
Salma Hayek
Donald Sutherland
Eileen Atkins
Idina Menzel
Justin Kirk
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