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Originally published May 14, 2009 at 4:00 PM | Page modified May 14, 2009 at 4:10 PM

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Movie review

"Little Ashes" is a pretty, but bloodless, look at young Dalí and friends

"Little Ashes" tamely rehashes the early years of painter Salvador Dalí (played by "Twilight's" Robert Pattinson) and poet Federico García Lorca (Javier Beltrán). Review by Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2 stars

"Little Ashes," with Javier Beltrán, Robert Pattinson, Matthew McNulty, Marina Gatell, Arly Jover. Directed by Paul Morrison, from a screenplay by Philippa Goslett. 112 minutes. Rated R for sexual content, language and a brief disturbing image. Harvard Exit.

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As fits a film about an artist, Paul Morrison's "Little Ashes" is a visual pleasure. The story of the relationship between painter Salvador Dalí (Robert Pattinson) and poet Federico García Lorca (Javier Beltrán), shot by director of photography Adam Suschitzky, has moments of genuine beauty; in particular, there's an interior shot at a window framing a watery-ink-blue sky, with a lit candle turning one side of the room a gentle ocher, that's so artful I wanted to freeze it.

Good thing there's plenty to look at, because otherwise "Little Ashes" disappoints. (Would this movie even be in theaters if Pattinson hadn't suddenly become the Next Hot Thing due to "Twilight"?) With this kind of when-they-were-kids story, you have to ask yourself whether this film would hold any interest if the characters weren't destined to become famous. Pattinson, who's very good at looking morose in a complex way, swans about in ruffles and a Louise Brooks bob, warily eyeing Matthew McNulty's imperious Luis Buñuel (yes, he went to school with Lorca and Dalí, too). We see a bit of Buñuel's Surrealist breakthrough film "Un Chien Andalou," made with Dalí and featuring a simulated eye being sliced open by a razor, hear a bit of Lorca's poetry, see a bit of Dalí's work — but otherwise, they seem like typical students, very young and not yet aware of how much they have to learn.

Philippa Goslett's screenplay has a few moments of wit: Dalí, drunk at a party, cheerfully announces that he's going to be sick, to which an elegant Spanish lady promptly replies "You must be another writer." But mostly, "Little Ashes" is a little dull. Better to seek out these artists' works firsthand than to settle for this tame rehash, pretty as it may be.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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