Strange Way of Life

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It makes perfect sense for a writer/director who enjoys intense feeling to be drawn to the Western genre. One might initially claim that the genre is more about repressed masculinity than the traditional Pedro Almodóvar brand of filmmaking, but this genre also has a strong undercurrent of melodrama and higher stakes. Almodóvar fits in with these sly looks, gasping declarations, and dramatic close-ups (although, given his enormous talent, one might argue that he fits in with everything).

The existence of “Strange Way of Life” is further explained by the fact that Almodóvar was formerly associated with “Brokeback Mountain.” He has stated that, although having the utmost respect for what Ang Lee was able to accomplish, he was drawn to the physicality of Annie Proulx’s book but believed that he couldn’t reproduce that in a Hollywood production and that the Oscar-winning picture lost that component of the storytelling. He described his two-hander Western “Strange Way of Life” as a “answer” to the movie, and it’s a very decent one.

Without giving anything away, the film’s last scene—which takes place in spite of the fact that it might be his soulmate—clearly reveals its main theme: the struggle of a guy to imagine a household existence with another man. “Strange Way of Life” oozes the assurance we’ve come to anticipate from Almodóvar, even though it eventually seems like this is just the opening act of a larger, more intricate full picture. However, there is something lovely about this short’s brevity, a feeling that we can fill in what occurs next or how this could have been expanded out to be a larger work.

The fictional film’s action probably begins 25 years before Silva (Pedro Pascal) comes back into the community where Jake (Ethan Hawke) is the current sheriff.

Jake is resentful and life-hardened while Silva is still open and vulnerable. It’s as if Silva’s departure from Jake’s life eliminated all possibilities for happiness. Silva hasn’t just come back to revive the relationship with Jake, it is revealed that the two were once lovers. Sheriff Jake’s pursuit of Silva’s son Joe (George Steane), who is wanted for murder, creates a conflict where Jake may be forced to decide between apprehending his suspect and seizing this final opportunity for happiness. How about Silva’s true motives? He’s apparently sleeping with Jake once more in an effort to keep Joe out of the crosshairs of the law.

The fact that Saint Laurent Productions produced “Strange Way of Life” lends sections of this work—particularly a flashback showing a teenage Joe and Silva getting steamy under some overflowing wine barrels—the impression that it is as much a fashion commercial as it is a film. Nevertheless, Pascal and Hawke contrast the vivid hues that one might anticipate from “Almodóvar and Saint Laurent.” Hawke’s properly sour performance and Pascal’s tender one serve as the short’s foundation. It certainly helps to work with Almodóvar, whose impressive resume includes sumptuous cinematography from José Luis Alcaine (“Volver,” “The Skin I Live In”) and a gorgeous score from the great Alberto Iglesias, another frequent collaborator.

With Almodóvar’s 2020 short “The Human Voice,” which stars Tilda Swinton, “Strange Way of Life” will have a constrained theatrical run. With “The Human Voice” and “Strange Way of Life,” Almodóvar has nearly appeared to be preparing for the possibility of a whole film in English. That was his first English-language project. Since Almodóvar has been a master for so long, anything he produces is now worth watching. Regardless of the language, subject matter, or length, Almodóvar animates the screen.

Friday in cinemas.

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