Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Pedro Almodovar visits the Old West

 It's hardly a surprise that director Pedro Almodovar, once regarded as the gifted and undisputed bad boy of Spanish cinema, has decided to make a film about gay gunslingers in the Old American West. Surprisingly, though, Strange Way of Life, a  31-minute, English-language short doesn't  go much of anywhere. Those familiar with Almodovar's work know him as a visual master whose films brilliantly  meld design and meaning. He’s an ardent proponent of entertaining the eye in ways that serve both the worlds and the characters he creates. You'll see some of that in Strange Way of Life, but there's not much more to consider about the movie. Ethan Hawke stars as a bitter, tormented sheriff who reunites with a former lover (Pedro Pascal) after 25 years. Jake (Hawke) has a sexual reunion with Pascal's Silva, but resists taking things further. A strained subplot revolves around Jake's duty to track his sister-in-law's killer (George Steane). The killer happens to be Silva's son. Silva argues that Jake should allow the young man to flee to Mexico. Almodovar includes a flashback to the Wild Bunch days Jake and Silva once shared. Viewers may have seen the subject of gay men in macho worlds better developed in Brokeback Mountain and more recently in The Power of the Dog.  Hawke, however, brings the force of severity to the lawman role Jack feels compelled to play. Strange Way of Life tries for the poignance that stems from recognizing roads not taken. But the movie might be confused with the sizzle reel for a feature-length movie that never materialized.
Strange Way of Life is being released theatrically on a double bill with The Human Voice, another short film by Almodovar. First released in 2020, The Human Voice stars Tilda Swinton in an adaptation of a play by Jean Cocteau. I haven’t seen it.

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