Friday, February 23, 2007

Ask the Dust (Robert Towne, 2006)

Ask the Dust (Robert Towne, 2006)


John Fante was a relatively unsung poet of '30s Los Angeles, his novel "Ask the Dust"--featuring Fante's alter-ego, the ambitious and insufferable Arturo Bandini--a relatively unknown but intense autobiographical rant against the City of Angel's racism and implacability, and his own self-loathing self. The book possibly influenced J.D. Salinger--his Holden Caulfield sounds like a younger, better-fed version of Bandini. Charles Bukowski--who calls Fante his "God"--describes his discovery of Fante thusly: "one day I pulled a book down and opened it, and there it was…like a man who had found gold in the city dump, I carried the book to a table." Michael Tolkin (who wrote "The Player") is an admirer; and writer-director Robert Towne nursed a longtime dream of adapting the book to film.

It wasn't easy. Towne had discovered Fante's work back in the early '70s, when he was researching his script for "Chinatown;" at one point, just after the first two "Godfather" films became a huge hit, Francis Ford Coppola had planned to do Fante's "Brotherhood of the Grape" using a script by Towne. Johnny Depp waited a year for Towne to get the financing together; Towne never did. Even Leonardo DiCaprio was at one point attached to the project.

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