Salvador Dali Museum director weighs in on 'Little Ashes'

Paul Morrison's Little Ashes, a portrait of the artist Salvador Dali as a young man, is more than a movie to Dr. Hank Hine. As director of the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg since 2001, Hine sees Little Ashes as another method of expanding awareness of Dali, his unique life and accomplishments.

Hine viewed a DVD copy of Little Ashes before discussing it with the St. Petersburg Times. He'll also appear at Saturday night's 7:30 screening of the film at the Tampa Theatre to answer questions after the show. (Other museum officers will handle those duties at Friday and Sunday's 7:30 performances.)

Little Ashes deals with Dali during his academy days, forging friendships with his peers, filmmaker Luis Bunuel and poet Federico Garcia Lorca. Is that a wise focus?

I wasn't sure what story they would weave together because there are so many stories in Dali's life, so many associations with so many different people in different contexts: from Spain, to Picasso and the surrealists in Paris, his connections to the United States, Hollywood, the Beatles, the Pope, (Francisco) Franco, the king of Spain. . . . But I think this was a good filmic choice, to choose a moment of formative intersections, connecting to these other artists who hold great interest for the public.

Especially with Lorca, whom the movie depicts as sharing a homoerotic romance with Dali.

First of all, it's not known if they were lovers. Dali was always ambiguous about it. I don't think there's anything documented about Dali having homosexual relations.

He did have a great deal of curiosity about other people's sexuality. He liked being voyeuristic. These other things are not known, but one imagines from the elasticity in his own identity that he could have been bisexual.

I'm sure that will surprise fans of Robert Pattinson (Twilight), who plays Dali. What did you think of his portrayal?

He did a good job of capturing that noncommittal aspect of Dali, who wasn't committed to the Lorca relationship, nor was he fully withdrawn; he vacillated.

What we're told about Dali — and this is the place where (the film) may have overstepped a bit — is that he was really reticent about any kind of physical contact. They did a good job establishing his reticence, that ambivalence he had about connecting with others.

I was surprised that the movie, at least in early scenes, portrays Dali as socially awkward, not the brash artist we know best.

As (Dali) describes it, he had a lot of social unease. When he met (artist) Paul Eluard and his wife, Gala (who later married Dali), they came to visit and apparently Dali used to laugh uncontrollably, get almost hysterical. Gala, he claims, was the calming influence in his life.

Little Ashes is fairly conventional filmmaking, although Dali's art and life were anything but conventional. How do you think he would feel about this movie?

Dali was famous for saying: "The more confusion, the better." To the extent that the movie shows a confused view of his sexuality, I think he would applaud it.

Steve Persall can be reached at persall@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com/ movies.

Salvador Dali Museum director weighs in on 'Little Ashes'

05/13/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 13, 2009 12:04pm]

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