Lorca loves Dalí. And Dalí loves himself. Buñuel loves film. You can't win. And so it goes with young artistes when they're innocent and hopeful in conservative prewar Spain.
Shot like a cologne ad for queens who long for the ruffled shirts and repressed sexual longings of yesteryear, Little Ashes (after one of Dalí's paintings) is a florid soap opera of unconsummated "bromance," starring alabaster heartthrob Robert Pattinson (Twilight) as the 18-year-old Salvador Dalí.
At the prestigious School for Fine Arts in Madrid, the young surrealist painter is befriended by two of the university's top students: gay poet Federico García Lorca (Javier Beltran) and gay-bashing filmmaker Luis Buñuel (Matthew McNulty). Before you can say "Merchant-Ivory meets Logo TV," sensitive Lorca makes goo-goo eyes at arrogant Dalí, setting off a painful conflict between forbidden desires and the criminality of being gay in 1920s Spain.
First-time scripter Philippa Goslett exaggerates the artist's biographies for melodramatic confrontations, clumsy exposition and dull plotting; instead of examining roots of the two artist's contradictory paths and passions (Dalí sold out while Lorca got assassinated for his politics and art), we're treated to hemming and hawing over Dalí's bi-curious teasing. It's an unconvincing and oh-so tasteful approach to homosexuality that demonstrates that no amount of bare butts and full-frontal frolicking will compensate for incessant platitudes and posturing.
Director Paul Morrison brings in a painterly eye, often undermining the story while summoning unintentional laughs. While the Spanish countryside shots are ravishing, a meticulously composed one of Dalí lustfully spying on Lorca is cringe-worthy.
Credit Pattinson for pushing beyond his broody bloodsucker role, but his performance here (along with the rest of the cast, including the Spaniards) is stilted by lisping English accents and dollops of overemoting.
At the Main Art Theatre, 118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111.
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.