InsidePulse DVD Review – Ask the Dust

Image Courtesy of


Robert Towne


Colin Farrell……….Arturo Bandini
Salma Hayek……….Camilla Lopez

The Movie

The Depression is a fertile area for stories, it seems, but few are ever made into films in the last 20 years if only because they lack box office sizzle if they travel outside of traditional stories and characters. Cinderella Man was rated as one of 2005’s best films but flopped at the box office despite a familiar story akin to Rocky. And a film that should’ve received a bigger release but didn’t as the non-traditional romantic drama Ask the Dust earlier in 2006.

Ask the Dust, based off a novel of the same name by John Fante, focuses on a love story between a writer and a waitress looking for other people. Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell) is an Italian with the gift for the written word, trying to make it big as a writer while looking for the blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty he believes will provide him a fountain of inspiration. Camilla Lopez (Salma Hayek) wants a wealth American husband to take her out of her poor existence, hoping her natural beauty will allow her to be the trophy wife of a rich man. As he writes about life with moderate success, the two begin an odd relationship that eventually blossoms into a fiery love for one another. Dealing with issues of race and class, Arturo and Camilla deal with a variety issues as well as a love/hate relationship with one another as they handle the inherent difficulties that a much more racist society of the 1920s would bring to them.

And on its face, the film really shouldn’t work as well it does. The two immediately have a connection but is mired in racist slurs and comments towards one another that go well beyond catty flirtation and move into mean-spirited early and often. It leads to some awkward pacing issues early on, as well as some stilted dialogue that takes away from the film often, but the key is that the film’s script has a nice build to it that when the romance begins to bloom it is the result of a lot of work done between the two. Adapting anything from a novel is hard, especially considering this subject matter, but the film does try and keep the unconventional aspects of their relationship in a clear and cogent form while giving both of the main characters subtle character development.

This hate that turns into love only works because Farrell and Hayek are great in their roles and have good chemistry with one another. While the script doesn’t leave a lot of room for them, this is truly a film carried because the two people who are supposed to be in love have enough good vibes to make it plausible. Too often in romantic films two mismatched actors have to try and fake it to poor result; Ask the Dust works in spite of itself because the principles are great with one another.

Combined with some great cinematography work, as well as quality editing and this is actually a good film despite the fact that the script seems to be working against that notion for large portions of the film. While it’s hard to build sympathy for either character at times, the film has a great look and feel to it. Los Angeles in the Great Depression seemingly comes alive, giving it a vibrant and pleasant feel to a bad point in history. Throw in some gratuitous nudity from Hayek and you have a pleasant and engaging film about the nature of love.

The Video

Presented in a widescreen format, the film has a great transfer. The film has a gritty, grainy look to it that comes through in an elegant manner on the DVD, allowing for the dark nature of the time and the light of the romance to come through in well-developed ways.

The Audio

Presented in a Dolby 5.1 format, it almost seems like a bit of overkill to have a dialogue driven film with so much sound to use. The sound is well separated and developed fully, allowing for subtlety in a film that demands it.

The Extras

The making of Ask The Dust is a making of featurette focusing on the long and lengthy process it took to get the film made. Passing through plenty of hands, including having Johnny Depp in Farrell’s role, the film went through several actors and scripts before finally being made. Not much of note is said in the roughly 14 minute feature but it does have a couple interesting bits like how Hayek was offered the role almost a decade ago and turned it down, only to take it when offered again after she was a more established actress.

Previews for the new special edition DVD of Reds and the DVD releases for 2006 films Mission Impossible: III and Neil Young: Heart of Gold.

Commentary by director Robert Towne and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel

Theatrical Trailer

InsidePulse’s Ratings for Ask the Dust
(OUT OF 10)