Extraña forma de vida (Strange Way of Life): Pedro Almodόvar’s queer western

Ex © El Deseo, photo by Iglesias Más

The eighth film In Selection for Pedro Almodóvar, President of the Feature Film Jury of the 70th Festival in 2017. In Extraña forma de vida (Strange Way of Life), presented as a Special Screening, the “Chicas” of Almodóvar give way, as was already the case in the autobiographical fiction Dolor y Gloria (Pain and Glory) in 2019, to two guys, two men magnetised by each other: Sheriff Jake (Ethan Hawke) and Silva, a rancher played by Pedro Pascal. A mid-length film infused by the Western, in the vein of those from the genre’s heyday that starred the likes of James Stewart and Clint Eastwood.

In Bitter Creek, at the dawn of the 20th century, Jake (Ethan Hawke) is blonde, strict and cold, whereas the Mexican Silva (Pedro Pascal) is brown-haired, sturdy and warm, and these old hitmen and childhood friends excercise two professions reserved for men. As in Ang Lee‘s Brokeback Mountain (2005), one of the rare queer love stories brought to the screen and which inspired Almodóvar, these two men loved each other at a time when such a love did not speak its name. And this love story will be frustrated as the plot of the film unfolds.

Shot in Almería in scenery built by Sergio Leone for the Man with No Name trilogy, Extraña forma de vida (Strange Way of Life) has been produced by a new production company (Saint Laurent Productions) created by the creative director of the Saint Laurent brand, Anthony Vaccarello. He also conceived the film’s costumes, including the striking green jacket worn by Padro Pascal. Vaccarello has noted his admiration for the women and for the men, “both strong and vulnerable”, of the Spanish director.

In this 31-minute mid-length film, Pedro Almodóvar is trying out a different genre and a different format. As early as 2020, the director opted for a different artistic choice when he made La Voix Humaine (The Human Voice) a short film, one inspired by the Jean Cocteau play and featuring a single performer, Tilda Swinton.

A multiple award winner at Cannes, in particular for Volver in 2006 (Award for Best Screenplay and Award for Best Actress (tied)) and for Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother) in 1999 (Award for Best Director), Pedro Almodóvar has also been invited by the festival this year to share his favourite memories from his brilliant career during a masterclass that will take place on Wednesday 17 May at 3 pm at the Debussy Theatre.