Little Ashes (2008)




Director:     Paul Morrison.

Starring:    Javier Beltrán (Federico García Lorca), Robert Pattinson (Salvador Dalí), Matthew McNulty (Luis Buñuel), Marina Gatell (Magdalena), Bruno Oro (Paco), Esther Nubiola (Adela), Marc Pujol (Carlos), Arly Jover (Gala), Simón Andreu (Fernando de Valle), Vicky Peña (Tía de Magdalena), Rubén Arroyo (Rafael), Diana Gómez (Ana María), Pep Sais (Profesor de Arte).

the friendship of film director Luis Bunuel and the two artists Salvador Dali and Federico Garcia Lorca


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

1922.  "Spain is dominated by the army, the church and large landowners.  Conservative morality invades every sphere of life: social artistic and sexual.  But a breeze is stirring throughout the land."

Student Residences, Madrid.  Three friends, who call themselves the Three Musketeers, return for the next semester of school.  One of the guys is Federico García Lorca and another is Luis Buñuel.  The third musketeer is Paco.  Arriving at the Student Residences is a student named Salvador Dalí.  He immediately gets the attention of the other students because of his flamboyant dress.  His hair is long and he wears what Jerry Seinfeld called a "pirate shirt". 

Lorca plays the piano and Dalí sticks his body half way in the doorway to listen and watch. 

Dalí seems very shy and doesn't hang out with the other guys.  One morning he starts to paint.  He sticks his head out of the window and sees Lorca sitting on the window sill reading.  When Lorca looks up, Dalí ducks back into his room.  Then he pretends to be sleeping and snoring partly on the window sill.  Lorca pays no attention to him. 

Dalí opens his door halfway and puts books in strategic locations around him as if he were preparing a stage act.  He also has his canvas set up.  Luis comes into the room and looks around.  He tells Dalí:  "Hoarding all this brilliance isn't very neighborly, you know."  He then asks for Dalí's name.  Dalí gives him the five names of his full name.  And what are his interests?  Dada, "arnachy and the construction of genius." 

Luis steps into the hall and shouts out that there is a private viewing in Room 7.  Come on in.  The three musketeers are all there.  Lorca likes a Cubist painting by Dalí and asks him if they could use the painting as the front cover of a magazine he is putting together?  No comment. 

The fellows go out to a night club.  There Dalí is introduced to Adela.  A young woman named Magdalena comes running over and hugs Lorca.  She says that she missed him.  Without him and the others there was nothing to do but read, so she read 80 books (reduced down to the actual figure of 10 books).  Lorca says he missed her too.

The two girls and four guys sit down, have some drinks and do some dancing.  Late at night the four guys walk home.  Luis shouts "faggots" at a young man and an older man walking together.  Luis and Lorca go up to the roof.  Luis talks of going to Paris, but Lorca says he doesn't speak French.  Besides, Lorca says, he can't leave Spain.  He says when he was living in the south, in Vega, there was some trouble in the village.  Later they heard that the Civil Guard (Guardia civil) had killed everyone in the village.  He remembers carts full of dead bodies.  When he remembers this he senses death "breathing behind the door".  And those are Spanish thoughts, not French ones. 

Dalí gets up in the morning.  He starts trying on different clothing to get the look he wants.  He cuts his hair and slicks it down and wears a suit.  Now he looks like the other guys at school. 

Luis and Lorca are shocked to see Dalí's new look.  Luis tells Dalí that he is part of a movement known as ultraism.  The guys go to an "uncensored" puppet show. Sitting at the show Lorca keeps looking over at Dalí.  Later he prays and says he has sinned because he has had impure thoughts. He avoids Dalí for awhile. 

The art class uses a nude female model.  Dalí seems a bit bored. He sees outside on the street Lorca walking with Magdalena. He leaves the classroom and goes out on the street to have a closer look.  The professor shouts down to his student to return to class.  Dalí ignores the professor.  Magdalena is telling Lorca that they won't publish her unless she uses a male pen name. 

Salvador sneaks around the couple and gets ahead of them, so they will pump into Salvador and not vice-versa.  Magdalena sees him first and yells out to him.  Salvador asks them what are they doing?  Magdalena says her aunt is giving one of her dull dinner parties.  She tells Salvador to come to the paryt.  Lorca says it's going to be too boring for Salvador, but Salvador says he would love to go. 

So the three of them go to the party.  As soon as they go inside, Salvador grabs two drinks.  He finishes one before Lorca grabs him and introduces him to the aunt.  Salvador is soon trying to shock the aunt talking about bathroom humor.  Magdalena drags him away from her aunt. 

At dinner Magdalena asks Lorca who are those men over there?  He says the one fellow is senior governmental advisor, Milagro.  The other guy is Fernando de Valle, a literary censor for Madrid.  Poor Salvador has been seated between two older women and he is bored out of his skull.  He is also a bit drunk.  He starts clapping his approval for the musical group saying the music is simply superb and just super.   

This offends one of the two military men at the table and one of them says to the artist:  "How dare you?"  Dalí tells him that he certainly doesn't know who he is talking to.  He is Salvador Dalí, the savoir of modern art.  Then he starts praising the work of Lorca, calling him a genius.  Dalí asks Lorca to recite something.  Lorca doesn't want to do it, but Dalí insists and the military man backs up Dalí.  Lorca is a bit peeved about being forced to recite some of his work, so he chooses to recite the poem about the killing of the gypsies by the Civil Guard in the village near his home. 

This embarrasses the two military men and others at the table and only Dalí claps for the recitation.  As the guys start for home they have to go past the two military guys.  Dalí shouts out:  "Long live the Revolution!" And now they have to make a run for it because their newly made enemies are chasing them.  They are able to get away from the two fellows.

Luis works on his magazine calling for complete revolution in Spain.  Dalí speaks with Lorca about wanting to be remembered.  He says he has to go further in everything:  in art and life.  No limits.  Luis gets up to start a fight.  He accuses a fellow of having his hand on Adela's knee.  The two fellows start boxing, while Dalí and Lorca go outside. 

Cadaques, northern Spain.  Birthplace of Dalí.  Luis and Dalí come out of a church in all white suits.  They "borrow" the bicycles of two workers and go riding.  They go down by the ocean and horse around.  It gets dark and they light a fire.  The next day they each work on their own art in a large studio.   When he finishes the painting, Dalí shows it to Lorca and says that Lorca can name the painting.  Lorca says "Little Ashes" because Dalí "can paint 'us' into 100 pictures and in 80 years time we will still be dust."

Down by the beach again, Lorca reads some poetry for Dalí.  Later they go out in a row boat.  The two fellows jump from the row boat into the water.  Lorca kisses Dalí.  Dalí seems not to know what to do about the kiss.

The Vega, Andalucia.  Federico arrives at his home.  He had wanted Dalí to come with him, but that didn't happen.  He writes a letter to Dalí saying how torn apart he is inside.  Dalí writes to say he has been working on set designs for Federico's play. 

Federico returns to Madrid and finds Dalí there painting.  The two fellows start talking and then they start kissing.  They are interrupted by the arrival of Luis.  Luis is surprised to find the two fellows dressed in a similarly flamboyant style of dress.  He asks what's the deal with the papers on the floor?  Federico says they are set design for his play Mariana Pineda.  Luis senses that the two friends are more than friends.  They talk about what they should wear as a couple. 

When the gang gets together at the night club, Luis is being especially homophobic and downright nasty.  He says homosexuality is illegal and immoral and those who are caught should get 15 years of hard labor.  Magdalena goes on the floor to dance with Federico and Adela takes Paco.  That leaves Luis and Dalí behind.  Dalí tells Luis that Federico is working on a play about Salvador Dalí,  Luis says it will be sentimental rubbish.  He urges Dalí to get away from this place and go to Paris.  In Paris Dalí would be a big success. 

Luis reads parts of Federico's diary.  He leaves the diary opened on the bed.  Then he goes outside for a walk.  He smokes one cigarette after another.  Another fellow comes over to him and tries to give him a blow job.  Luis hits him in the face with his knee.  Then he kicks the guy several times.  Luis now just walks away. 

Federico and Salvador start kissing again.  They start taking off their clothes, but then Salvador feels somewhat faint.  He sits for awhile, but then says:  "No limits."  But when they start to go all the way, Salvador again feels queasy.  Later Federico tells him that it's no big deal what happened.  But Salvador tells Federico that he is going to Paris.  There he will see Luis and Luis will introduce him to Picasso and the surrealists.  And Luis will take him to the night clubs.  He tells Federico not to try to stop him.  He then walks out.

Dalí has a great time in the Parisian nightclubs.  He loves drinking and flirting with the women. 

Federico doesn't feel good.  Magdalena tells him that she got a job at the tribune and will be starting in one month.  She is going to use the time to see Italy and she wants Federico to come along with her.  Then they run into Salvador who now sports a mustache.  Federico says he didn't know that Salvador had come back from Paris.  Salvador does not really want to talk to him, so he says very little and soon says he has to go.  Seeing Salvador again, Federico has lost all his focus.  Magdalena sees this and knows that Federico will not be going to Italy with her. 

At Dalí's oral examination all he does is insult the four professors.  As he leaves the room, he pushes over a statue that break into pieces on the floor below. 

Adela tries to console Magdalena's feelings.  Magdalena asks her to lend her a dress that will make her look irresistible. 

Dalí comes into Federico's room.  He says he met an agent who thought his paintings will make him the best thing in art coming out of Spain.  He also says that Luis introduced him to Picasso.  Picasso gave him a naked photo of his Russian wife Gala, short for Galushka.  He also says he wants to have this woman.  As for Federico, he is, as Luis says, a fucking faggot.  Federico asks Dalí what does that make him?  Salvador hits Federico but then they start kissing again.  Dalí says:  "I can't."

Magdalena comes to the door dressed in one of Adela's fancy gowns.  And Magdalena also seems to be a bit tipsy.  Furthermore, she wants to have sex with Federico.  But then she sees Dalí crunched up in a corner in the dark.  She laughs, but goes back to seducing Federico.  They start having sex, but Federico can't keep an erection, that is, until he watches Salvador masturbating while he watches the couple having sex.

Adela hears Salvador laughing his head off.  She goes over and sees the now completely head-shaven Dalí standing in front of one of his painting just laughing and laughing.

Federico goes to see Dalí in his room, but Salvador has already gone. 

The film An Andalusian Dog by Luis and Salvador.   A blind man is feeling the breasts of a woman who is clothed and then unclothed.  He also feels her buttocks.  One man shoots another man many times.  There is the famous scene of a man using a straight razor to cut the eye of a woman open.  Federico does not like the film.  Magdalena gets the janitor to open up Federico's door, but Federico is there and just opens the door. 

Magdalena and Federico go to a cafe.  Federico asks her:  "Why did they make this film?"  He says he knows they made this film to make fun of him.  Magdalena says he needs to get a complete get-away for awhile.  Get out of Madrid.  She asks if he's heard from Salvador?  No.  But in the paper they have a photo of Salvador and Luis together in Cadaques and Salvador has this Gala woman.  He says:  "Sometimes, I think we never met." 

Federico packs up his bags and leaves.  His play goes on tour.  He gets a new boyfriend and he publishes play after play. 

Madrid 1936.  8 years later.  Federico warns about fascism in Spain.  He wants freedom  now in Spain.  Luis comes into the bar.  And he is the first one to sign the petition for freedom in Spain.  Later the two friends talk.  Luis says he doesn't see Salvador anymore, because the only thing that Salvador wants is money.  Federico says he has heard from Salvador.  He says they should work together again. 

A man asks Federico to come to the rally in support of the Republic.  He says the troops in Spanish Morocco are coming out in support of the fascists.  Federico says he will come a little later.  He goes to see Salvador.  Salvador is quite the showman now.  And Federico gets to meet Gala at last. 

Federico asks Salvador if it's really true that he supports the fascists?  Salvador is rather dismissive of what's going on, but Federico tells him:  "This country is on the brink of something terrible.  And here you side with the people who could destroy everything we stand for?"   Gala softens things by saying that Salvador is completely apolitical. 

Luis tells Federico that Morocco has fallen to the fascists.  He is scared for Federico because the fascists know very well that Federico is extremely anti-fascist.  Federico says he's going home to Granada for a couple of days and then will come back to Madrid. 

And in Granada Federico gets arrested by the police in the name of the New Granada.  Federico is thrown into a room. 

Federico is taken out under guard with a number of other anti-fascists.  On the news they report the abduction of the poet Federico Garcia Lorca from his home town of Granada three days ago.  He and the others are taken out to an orchard where they face a firing squad.  All the anti-fascists are killed. 

Soon the news says that the execution of Lorca has been confirmed.  The news hits his friends hard.  Salvador covers his canvas and his head with black paint.  Magdalena cries outwardly. She and the old crowd minus Salvador have a toast to Lorca. 

"For decades after Garcia Lorca's death, Dali shrouded their relationship in mystery.  Only towards the end of his life, did he open up about his friendships from student days, especially his connection with Garcia Lorca.  Such memories inspired this film."


The main twist in this film is the checkered love story between Federico García Lorca and Salvador Dali.  These were different days than now, when we see homosexuality as a civil right and try to be more empathetic to that world.  But back in the 1930s things weren't so enlightened.  Salvador tried to keep his homosexuality hidden, rightfully feeling that it might slow or hinder his recognition as a great artist in those days.  Apparently, according to the film, Salvador was bi-sexual.  Being so careful and guarded with his love as expressed to Federico, made this love story a tough one on the emotions of Federico.  There are more scenes of suffering from the denial of love than there are scenes expressing homosexuality. 

Luis represents the homophobic, "traditional" man.   He can only think with hostility toward homosexuals and homosexuality.  In fact, he was so bad that he would employ violence against homosexuals.  Aren't their lives hard enough without heterosexuals using violence against them?  But I don't think this thought ever even entered the brain of Luis.  Luis was also the fellow trying to tear up the relationship between Lorca and Dali, partly by tempting Dali with the attraction of going to Paris.

So accept the film as it is.  It's not about the great artistic circles or how each artist affected the other two artists.  That's an interesting subject, but the primary subject was the love story itself and its problems resulting from being surrounded by homophobia.  I did not enjoy the males having sex or kissing, but I wasn't repulsed either.  I always remind myself that this type of story is about love and not primarily about the sex.   

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.





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