Speaking to the Guardian about Ask the Dust, John Fante and our fair city:
Robert Towne, the writer of Chinatown, grew up in San Pedro, the so-called port of Los Angeles. Ask him to describe the LA he remembers from his childhood and he paints an almost homely picture of the city: the mazes of freeways yet to be built, the ever-present smell of the ocean, the pepper trees and eucalyptus trees, the dragonflies everywhere. The sense, too, of being close to the desert - you were always aware of the dust in the air.
"Your physical sense of the place was much more pronounced. There was no smog... it was a city around which and in which were orange groves and bean fields and all sorts of things that gave you sights and senses that were already missing 15 or 20 years ago. Oh, my gosh!" he sighs as he reminisces about the sun hitting white buildings and red-tiled roofs...
In the San Pedro of Towne's childhood, there was a mix of Italians, Croats, Serbs, Portuguese and Swedes. Few of the kids he grew up with spoke English as a first language, but "everyone wanted to be American". Fante, an Italian-American, was likewise desperate to escape what Towne calls "the embarrassment and humiliation of his ethnic origins" to fulfill his dreams. He was writing about a city where everyone headed to do just that. "It was a dreamer writing about a city of dreamers," Towne says.
The film opens tomorrow in London. Wonder if it will last longer than the eight hours (or so...) that it played in theaters here.
Noticed at The Wit of the Staircase
Photo: Jim Cooper/AP