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Ask the Dust

Ask the Dust

4.5 2
Director: Robert Towne

Cast: Colin Farrell, Salma Hayek, Donald Sutherland


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Adapted from a novel by John Fante, Robert Towne's Ask the Dust stars Colin Farrell as Arturo Bandini, a young writer who comes to Los Angeles during the Great Depression in order to write a novel. As the film opens, he is down to his last nickel and decides to spend it on


Adapted from a novel by John Fante, Robert Towne's Ask the Dust stars Colin Farrell as Arturo Bandini, a young writer who comes to Los Angeles during the Great Depression in order to write a novel. As the film opens, he is down to his last nickel and decides to spend it on coffee in a diner. He is served by Camilla (Salma Hayek), a Mexican beauty he is instantly attracted to even though he treats her horribly during their first interaction. Soon the pair is involved in a relationship that finds them sparring with each other at first, but slowly learning to trust each other. Bandini meets the acquaintance of a desperate woman who sees him as the most desirable man in the world. Eventually Arturo and Camilla get away from the city and their love deepens as he attempts to finish his novel. Donald Sutherland co-stars as a seedy but helpful and loyal neighbor.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Robert Towne has had a long and distinguished career as a screenwriter, but has made only a handful of films as a director. His third, Ask the Dust, adapts John Fante’s Depression-era novel, a bittersweet tale about an aspiring writer who compromises his carefully calculated plan for success by entering into an affair with a fiery Mexican beauty. A subdued and effective Colin Farrell plays Arturo Bandini, who comes to Los Angeles to secure fame, fortune, and romance. Soon, Arturo falls for the lusty Camilla (Salma Hayek), who has come north in hopes of marrying above her station. Their relationship is a strange one, largely because the struggling artist seems incapable of overcoming his ambivalence. The pair’s ethnic and social differences become a crucial element of the narrative, suggesting why they never totally mesh as a couple despite their mutual attraction. Arturo’s other love affair -- the one with L.A. -- comes to life thanks to the film’s lush cinematography and set design. Farrell impresses in an unusual role, as do Donald Sutherland and Eileen Atkins in smaller, yet vivid, performances. Still it’s Hayek who comes out the winner; her Camilla can be loving and passionate, but she also seethes with resentment towards those who blindly discriminate. Hers is a brilliant performance, certainly the most accomplished she’s contributed to film since Frida.
All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
The biggest accomplishment of Robert Towne's adaptation of John Fante's Ask the Dust is that it will make anyone who sees it want to read the book. The film threads numerous layers of symbolism into the relationship between young Italian writer Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell) and the Mexican waitress Camilla (Salma Hayek). There are questions of race, and what it means to be an American, and what it means to be in Los Angeles (a question that Towne has addressed often in his career), and how a writer must balance his time between writing and living life in order to have experiences to write about. Towne interweaves all of these themes into the dialogue in such a way that shows intelligence and an obvious love for the source material. However, for all of the thematic resonance built up, never once do these two characters seem to exist as real people. The characters are used to ask questions and make philosophical points, but they fail to register as three-dimensional human beings. Caleb Deschanel's exquisite cinematography, and the wonderful attention to period detail in the clothes and the cars, makes for a beautiful-looking movie that finds a perfect middle ground between being a perfect recreation of depression-era Los Angeles and expressing the dreamy, romantic vision of the protagonist. Towne and company get the subtext right, but fail to bring the main characters to life. Because of this, Ask the Dust engages the mind, but fails to touch the heart.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Paramount Catalog
Region Code:

Special Features

Closed Caption; Commentary by Director Robert Towne and Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel; The making of Ask the Dust; Theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Colin Farrell Arturo Bandini
Salma Hayek Camilla
Donald Sutherland Hellfrick
Eileen Atkins Mrs. Hargraves
Idina Menzel Vera Rivkin
Justin Kirk Sammy
Jeremy Crutchley Solomon
Richard Schickel Voice of Mencken
Charlie Hunnam Actor

Technical Credits
Robert Towne Director,Screenwriter
Tom Cruise Producer
Caleb Deschanel Cinematographer
Ramin Djawadi Score Composer
Ana Feyder Casting
Celestia Fox Casting
Dennis Gassner Production Designer
Tommy Gormley Asst. Director
Don Granger Producer
Andreas Grosch Executive Producer
Nancy Haigh Set Decoration/Design
Galit Hakmon Co-producer
Tom Hannam Art Director
Kia Jam Co-producer
Robert Lambert Editor
Nico Louw Sound/Sound Designer
Hank McCann Casting
Jonas McCord Co-producer,Producer
Redmond Morris Executive Producer
Heitor Pereira Score Composer
Christopher Roberts Executive Producer
Mark Roemmich Executive Producer
Andreas Schmid Executive Producer
David Selvan Executive Producer
Jenny Shircore Makeup
Paula Wagner Producer
Albert Wolsky Costumes/Costume Designer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Ask the Dust
1. Chapter 1 [:18]
2. Written Aspirations [2:33]
3. In Search of Inspiration [5:23]
4. The Land of Somewhere Else [1:51]
5. After Hours [6:05]
6. Catching Waves [:03]
7. Mystery Visitor [7:03]
8. Wounds [1:32]
9. Sammy's Friendly Advice [5:13]
10. Afraid [:18]
11. Long Beach [6:44]
12. A Story Becomes A Novel [:05]
13. Oceanfront Hideaway [4:45]
14. Don't Let Go [:50]
15. Learning to Read [6:25]
16. First Date [1:14]
17. Farewell Proposal [5:36]
18. Making Peace [:02]


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Ask the Dust 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ever since Frida, I have been waiting for Salma to come back and do a similar impressing movie and of course Salma pull this one off very well same goes for Collin Farrell. I don't think a lot of people really understand what they're seeing here. Never mind the source material this is a glossy Hollywood melodrama in the vein of SOME CAME RUNNING. In fact, that's a good comparison, for that movie also dealt with the Artist Coming Into His Own and evolving into a more empathetic human being through a disastrous love story. I personally enjoyed it throughout. For me, the characters seemed real - people who were trying to be someone they were not, which fits with their environment. Arturo and Camilla seemed to "fight" their love for each other, moment to moment alternately revealing or suppressing their prejudices. Take out the racial element and it reminded me a bit of Deanie and Bud in "Splendor in the Grass", you almost expect them to burst into flames as they battle the demons that conspire to keep them apart. Just when they finally seem to find some peace with each other it all falls apart during the simple gesture of going on their "first" date. The passion between Atruro and Camillia is great and the love scenes are fantastic especially a flashback scene that takes place in the ocean. I was touched by Arturo's attempts to teach Camilla to read (using the book titled to name my review) and attain citizenship. I was also impressed with the performances of Idina Menzel (especially the scene’s with Atrturo) and Donald Sutherland (the latter a bit reminiscent of Sutherland's Homer Simpson in ("The Day of the Locust"). I was so glad to see Robert Towne's name in the credits again, I based my decision to see the film on my high regard for his work and that of Salma's as well. I find it ironic that Robert Towne, a product of the last golden age of cinema, would re-appear just as we seem to be having a 70's-like renaissance in independent film, just like the 70's/Vietnam era? The parallels are there. ‘Ask the Dust’ is what it is. If you don't like melodramatic tropes you won't like this, as the movie adheres to a lot of them: After this movie, watch the milk you put in your coffee.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago