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Almodóvar Recontextualizes the Western

October 5th, 2023Almodóvar Recontextualizes the Western

STRANGE WAY OF LIFE - With Added Bonus Attraction: The Human Voice

Few film genres are as deeply mined and well-worn as the Western. Since the medium’s inception, tales of dusty towns, desperate lawmen, and gunslingers have thrilled moviegoers. While the sheer volume of Westerns at the cinema has ebbed and flowed of the last century, filmmakers of all stripes are still finding new corners of it to explore. One such maestro is acclaimed Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar – bringing his signature brand of high-contrast melodrama to the Old West in his scintillating new short film, STRANGE WAY OF LIFE.

AMC Scene screened the short at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival where it was met with an overwhelmingly positive reception. Festival goers noted that, while STRANGE WAY OF LIFE is more explicitly sensual that most of Almodóvar’s work, his latest falls neatly in line with his history of genre experimentation and heightened sense of drama and place.

Pedro Pascal (“The Mandalorian,” “The Last of Us”) stars as Silva, a lone rider who blows into a small town to reconnect with his old friend, Sheriff Jake (Ethan Hawke, THE BLACK PHONE). After a night of intimacy, fueled by the longing of having spent 25 years apart, they’re celebratory reunion turns tense as the true intentions behind Silva’s become clear.

Described by the director himself as a “queer Western,” STRANGE WAY OF LIFE waxes and wanes between the past and the present. In the tradition of Sergio Leone’s DOLLARS Trilogy, the short was filmed in Spain, using its vast, mountainous deserts to pay clear homage to the classic, masculine spaghetti Westerns of yesterday and providing the perfect stage for Almodóvar’s revisionist take. Of course, there were all manner of people in the actual Old West but the history of film would lead one to believe that the LGBTQ+ had no place in it. STRANGE WAY OF LIFE seeks, not only to reclaim their place in real history, but also commit it to the Western film canon.

Pascal and Hawke definitely understood the assignment. Both performers thread the needle between the more classical bravado that the genre is known for and the sensual passion that this particular story places at its center. Silva is the unstoppable force to Sheriff Jake’s immovable object with their own conflict colliding headfirst with a shared personal tragedy that threatens to turn their love into acrimony.

Co-produced by Saint Laurent, the short also blends style with substance. The fashion house’s Western wear collection adorns the actors, adding an extra layer of theatricality as commentary on the artifice of the Western in general, let alone the spaghetti Western. A cowboy hat on a cowboy hat, if you will. The use of fashion models in flashback also helps illustrate the way memory is also subject to the contrivances of our own nostalgia.

In STRANGE WAY OF LIFE, Almodóvar uses his first foray into the Western (and second every English-language project) to deconstruct our perception of what the West was and what the Western can be. It’s histrionic bigness and theatricality deserves to be experienced on the silver screen. And if it’s your first Almodóvar, you’re in luck because its being paired with his first English-language short THE HUMAN VOICE at an AMC Theatre near you!

STRANGE WAY OF LIFE - With Added Bonus Attraction: The Human Voice

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