'Little Ashes': Dalí and Lorca in love

Twilight's Robert Pattison plays a young Salvador Dali in the film "Little Ashes."

Spain, 1922. Political repression and moral conservatism pervade. But as the opening titles of Little Ashes inform us, "a breeze is stirring through the land."

It's a breeze that the artsy whippersnappers Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí and Federico García Lorca are determined to catch - letting it muss their hair and ripple o'er their espressos.

Great art will come of it.

And a not-so-great movie, too.

The "untold" story of the fleeting love affair between Lorca, the revered Spanish poet, and Dalí, the surrealist painter, as university students in Madrid, Little Ashes is a bravely earnest and gauzy bit of biography.

Chapter One: meet cute. Chapter Two: steal a kiss while skinny-dipping. Chapter Three: death by firing squad for one, cultural celebrity for the other.

Directed by Paul Morrison (Oscar-nominated for his 1999 Welsh-Jewish love story, Solomon and Gaenor), with a script by Philippa Goslett, Little Ashes is perhaps most noteworthy - and marketable - for the participation of Robert Pattinson. The moody, lunar-pale vampire boy of Twilight stars as Dalí, who arrives at the university with a Prince Valiant coif, a dandy's wardrobe, and a book by Freud to demonstrate his rebelliousness. Later, Pattinson sports that wild curlicue mustache.

It doesn't take long for Buñuel (Matthew McNulty), Lorca (Javier Beltrán) and a cadre of mildly debauched bohos to embrace the narcissistic Dalí. Boozy declarations about art and knowledge and wild menages ensue.

Little Ashes - with its English-speaking cast adopting susurrous Spanish accents - has its grace notes. And Morrison dares to throw Buñuel's "Un Chien Andalou" into the mix (and onto the screen), giving the famous experimental short a context heretofore unknown to most viewers. The Spanish actress Marina Gatell is exotic and engaging as a young writer drawn to Lorca and puzzled why he is not drawn to her in return.

Little Ashes

Directed by Paul Morrison. With Simón Andreu, Esther Nubiola, Bruno Oro, Arly Jover, Robert Pattinson, Matthew McNulty, Marina Gatell, Javier Beltran, Vicky Peña. Distributed by Regent Releasing.

Running time: 1 hours, 52 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for sexual content, language and a brief disturbing image).