If only writing in real life could be as romantic as it often is in the movies. Ask the Dust, from writer-director Robert Towne), stars Colin Farrell as Arturo Bandini, an aspiring novelist in Depression-era Los Angeles who is dirt poor but still manages to afford a
dapper if distressed wardrobe and a vintage room in a picturesquely seedy hotel. If that isn’t enough, Arturo’s struggles attract the attention of a waitress named Camilla Lopez (Salma Hayek) who occasionally hops through his ground-floor window. Perhaps it’s just because I tapped this out at a cubicle desk – with Salma Hayek nowhere in sight – that I find all of the mythologizing of the writing craft a bit hard to swallow. Ask the Dust is a navel-gazing exercise to begin with – it’s based on a 1939 novel, by John Fante, that’s largely about writing a novel – and Towne only emphasizes the self-involvement by recreating the sort of stylishly period L.A. that dominated his Chinatown screenplay.