Paramount Home Video
Cast: Colin Farrell, Selma Hayek, Donald Sutherland
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Trailers
Set during the depression of 1933 Los Angeles, struggling author, Arturo Bandini, (Colin Farell) is hoping to write a book that will make him rich and famous. The only problem is that he lacks the confidence to write about things he has yet to experience in his own life.
Since it's the depression, times are tough and Bandini, down to his last buffalo nickel and facing eviction from his $4 a week rented hotel room, he heads into the local café for a cup of coffee. Once there, Arturo has a confrontation with Carmela, (Selma Hayek) a Mexican waitress who has dreams of her own – namely marrying a white Anglo, adopting a nice American last name such as "Johnson" or "Smith" and becoming an American citizen.
The last thing neither she nor Bandini want in a climate of racism – not only towards Mexicans but Italians as well, is to become involved with one another. But that's exactly what happens – no matter how much the two try and deny their mutual attraction.
Directed by Robert Towne and produced by Tom Cruise and partner Paula Wagner, "Ask the Dust" is based on a popular book of the same name which was written in the 1940s. As such, Director Towne has crafted a nicely done period piece which effectively captures the time period of that era. Colin Farrell is perfectly cast as Arturo Bandini, the Italian American author struggling to make a name for himself. If you're worrying how an Irish actor can pull that off – don't. Farrell's American accent is perfect and he manages to convince the viewer that he is nothing but an Italian American. Selma Hayek is also perfectly cast as Carmela, the Mexican girl wanting a better life for herself. Together, the two have a great onscreen chemistry. Donald Sutherland turns up in a small cameo as a broken down old man who rents the room next to Arturo.
Assisted by excellent production values and cinematography, the story slowly sucked me in and had me wondering what the outcome would be for Arturo and Carmela.
Paramount releases "Ask the Dust" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen which preserves the film's original theatrical presentation. The transfer is near reference quality which only serves to enhance the wonderful cinematography. A muted color palette provides the film with the look and feel of the 1930s. Flesh tones are natural, while contrast is spot on with deep blacks which in turn provide for very good shadow delineation. No edge-enhancement nor dust or debris was noted.
Audio comes way of a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track with an optional 2.0 soundtrack included. Since most of the film is dialogue driven, the front channels did a fine job of delivering the sound in a clear and distinct manner.
The special features section contain a commentary track by director Robert Towne and Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel. It's an informative session in which the two discuss the recreation of the 1930s and how the look of the film was achieved. Next up is the 14 minute featurette, "The Making of Ask the Dust." Director Towne discusses how he came to become a part of this film and how Johnny Depp among others were interested in the role of Bandini. There are also four trailers, one of which is for the feature presentation.
"Ask the Dust" has somewhat of a noir feel to it – which is enhanced mainly due to the use of voice over in which the character of Bandini talks to us the viewer. While I admired the film as a period piece with its noir like feel, I can't say I totally bought into the film's final act. It felt somewhat rushed, and with a runtime of 112-minutes shouldn't have felt that way. I think the film would have been better served with tighter editing in the second act so more time could have been devoted for the ending, which would have made for a more emotional impact in my opinion. Regardless of this, I do feel "Ask the Dust" is very much worth looking into.