Dir. Paul Morrison
Written by Philippa Goslett
Starring: Robert Pattison, Javier Beltran, Matthew McNulty and Marina Gattell.
Here is a fascinating story: a young Salvador Dali arrives at the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid where Luis Buñuel and Federico Garcia Lorca lead a make-shift bohemian colony, encouraging each other to nurture their artistic talents. Lorca and Dali become infatuated with each other, become lovers but soon their relationship comes to a halt once Dali flees to Paris away from Lorca and into Buñuel's Parisian world, leaving Lorca heartbroken but all the more focused on political and social revolution (which, if you know your Spanish history, leads to his assassination).
So here we have a great story, a beautiful backdrop (Madrid in the 1920s) - so why is this film so dreadfully boring, needlessly confusing and overall disjointed? I blame the characterization of Dali. From scene to scene, Goslett, Morisson and Pattinson in particular, don't know what to do with Salvador: how do you explain and compellingly portray one of twentieth century's greatest artists, root him in a believable world where we can follow his character from introvert genius artist to over-the-top genius without eliciting a schizophrenic, botched performance from an ill-equipped Pattison? You can't, or at least - not with the talent involved. Everything around Dali works really well: Beltran as Lorca grounds the film in heartbreaking candor, McNulty's Buñuel is necessarily frightening and charming, Gattell brings Magdalena to life - specifically in a climactic sex scene that changes everything - and even the Madrid that Morrison paints for us is nicely brings together the artistic buoyancy of the era and the burgeoning political violence that laid ahead.
Sadly, Dali and Pattison's performance (seriously, I have never seen someone on screen so aware of the camera while trying so hard to act as if the camera wasn't there... very bizarre - also, when the audience is laughing at you, well - need we say more?) throw any potential this movie could have had aside. D+
PS. Can we please talk about the biggest mistake other than casting Pattison in the role of Dali? I'm talking about the choice to a) write/shoot the film in English and b) have Beltran recite the poetry in Spanish but have the poetry dubbed in English by Beltran's voice over it. Does it sound confusing? It was, and distracting and altogether a betrayal of Lorca's beautiful poetry. /rant over.