Pedro Almodóvar rides into the Western in a Cannes short film about gay cowboys

CANNES, France — CANNES, France (AP) — “Pedro! Pedro!” shouted the Cannes crowd before Pedro Almodóvar premiered his latest film, “Strange Way of Life,” a 31-minute western starring Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke as cowboys and former lovers.

There’s nothing quite like the fervor that greets a new film by Almodóvar, one of the world’s most beloved filmmakers. But that may have been doubly so for “Strange Ways of Life,” even if it’s a quarter of his usual performance. The scene was so upsetting that many ticket holders never got in.

When Almodóvar introduced his all-male cast on stage at the film’s Cannes Film Festival premiere, some in the audience had to cool off. John C. Reilly, president of this year’s Un Certain respect jury, graciously reached across the aisle with his hat to cheer on an excited moviegoer.

“I wasn’t sure I’d make a Western in my life, but at least I made a short one,” Almodóvar said with a smile the next day in an interview on the hotel’s terrace overlooking the Croisette.

The 73-year-old Spanish author came closer and closer to working in English. He has now done so in two short films – “The Human Voice” with Tilda Swinton and “Strange Way of Life”, sponsored by Saint Laurent – and is about to make his first English-language film after leaving “A Manuel for Cleaning Women”. ”, a film he made with Cate Blanchett.

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Once again, “Strange Way of Life” suggests that Almodóvar works as easily in English as he does in Spanish. Pascal (who had to miss the film’s premiere) and Hawke play a couple of ex-gunners who meet 25 years after a terrible affair. They briefly rekindle their love for each other, but the man’s stubborn insistence that life together is impossible leads to a violent climax.

Almodóvar, a knowledgeable film buff who had previously consciously worked in the genres of melodrama, noir and screwball, discovered his love for westerns in his early twenties. Among his favorites are John Sturges, Henry Hathaway, Anthony Mann and Howard Hawks. “John Ford is unlimited,” he says.

But the genre goes even deeper with Almodóvar. He remembers his father trying to teach him to ride as a boy. (“And I was so afraid he couldn’t,” she says.)

“The western was born at the beginning of the century with the cinema. Hollywood created the American epic and stylized their reality,” says Almodóvar alongside Hawke. “But their reality was very dusty and very ugly. It wasn’t glamorous. They created a style that is completely American and also a completely male genre. I thought if there were that many men, some of them might want each other.

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Almodóvar has come closer before. In the early ’90s, he was looking to adapt Tom Spanbauer’s “The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon,” but he says a Western with gay cowboys and Native American Indians is a tough sell. Almodóvar also turned down “Brokeback Mountain,” which Ang Lee produced in 2005. He wanted to make a full western with gun fights. Only with the case hung on the bed frame.

“For me, ‘Brokeback Mountain’ has the hats, the iconography of the western. But they were shepherds. There were no cowboys. They were not assassins,” says Almodóvar. “(My characters’) past for me was being part of a gang like Sam Peckinpah’s ‘The Wild Bunch.’ And they’re having an affair.”

“Strange Way of Life,” which will be released by Sony Pictures Classics later this year, was shot in some hallowed western terrain in Almeria, Spain, where Sergio Leone made some of his classic spaghetti westerns.

“You feel like you’re part of a legend in film history,” says Hawke. “Being in Spain, making an American western with Pedro, was very meta.”

And it’s a joy to see Almodóvar working in a new genre, but just as at home, filling the frame with bright colors (Pascal’s character wears a lime green jacket) and blooming emotions. For him, much of Hollywood history can be reexamined through a queer lens with a little imagination.

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“There are some huge areas to explore because they haven’t been explored before,” says Almodóvar. “Sometimes I do an exercise—it’s not an obsession—where I change the sexuality of the main character. Maybe it is, and it’s the same in film noir and thriller.”

According to Almodóvar, for example, the 1949 James Cagney gangster film “White Heat” would be the same if Edmund O’Brien’s secret prisoner was gay.

But whatever the genre, “Strange Way of Life” adds another vibrant chapter to Almodóvar’s filmography, now in its fifth decade, with the highly autobiographical “Pain and Glory” (2019) and 2021’s politically-tinged, hidden past ” following the drama “Parallel Lives”. .”

“Every movie is an adventure, and that’s part of the addiction,” Almodóvar says. “Uncertainty is the word that defines it. Even though I’ve made 22 films and two shorts, I don’t feel like I know how to do it. Because every movie is different.”


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