Strange Way of Life

Strange Way of Life
Strange Way of Life
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It is only natural, therefore, that a writer/director with a penchant for heightened emotions would be fascinated by the Western genre. Initially it might seem as though this type of film has nothing to do with Almodóvar’s usual brand of filmmaking (which is rather restrained masculinity). However, the genre also contains within itself a deep stream of melodrama and ratcheted up stakes. Sneaky glances, romantic declarations in whispers, close-up shots so tight as to make one feel like they are suffocating—Almodóvar fits here (although he’s such a big name – some may argue he belongs anywhere). This film makes sense even more when you consider that Almodóvar was once associated with ‘Brokeback Mountain’. He has said that he loved the physicality of Annie Proulx’s novel but felt it could never work in Hollywood and, despite his admiration for Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning film, thought it missed out on that aspect of storytelling completely. He has referred to his own two-hander Western “Strange Way of Life” as an answer to Brokeback Mountain”, which is not too far off from reality.

Without giving anything away, the final scene in this 31-minute movie really sums up what the whole story was about: a man who could not see himself settling down with another man even if that person were his soul mate. This picture carries all the confidence we have come to associate with Almodóvar and yet there is still something about it that makes it seem like part one of something much bigger and more complicated. On the other hand, there is something beautiful about how short this piece is—a sense exists regarding what happens next or how this could be elongated into a longer piece.

That imaginary feature probably begins 25 years before Silva (Pedro Pascal) rides into Jake’s (Ethan Hawke) western town again as its new Sheriff. They have the air of two men who used to be much more similar than they are now from their first reunion. Silva is always open and transparent, while Jake seems embittered and toughened, as if with Silva’s departure from his life all opportunities for happiness departed as well. It’s revealed that not only were Silva and Jake previously lovers but also that Silva didn’t just return to start afresh. Joe (George Steane), son of the killer wanted by Sheriff Jake has resulted in a showdown where Jake must choose between his suspect or one last try at being happy again. So what exactly does Silent want? Is he sleeping with Jake again in order to prevent him from crushing Joe under his official boot?

This piece was made by Saint Laurent Productions which is why a specific scene of young Joe and Silva’s libidinous activity near some spilling wine barrels looks like part of an advertisement rather than part of a film. However, Pascal and Hawke provide contrast to the vibrant colours that one might anticipate finding in “Almodóvar and Saint Laurent.” For instance, Hawke plays a pretty gruff character whereas Pascal’s is quite gentle. Additionally, it helps when Almodovar can call upon such distinguished company as José Luis Alcaine (“Volver,” “The Skin I Live In”) for beautiful cinematography or Alberto Iglesias for yet another wonderful score.

The strange way of life is getting a limited release in theaters together with Almodóvar’s 2020 short “The Human Voice” starring Tilda Swinton. That was also Almodóvar’s inaugural English-language production and it reminds one of his deliberation through the “Human voice” to finally complete “Strange Way of Life.” Over generations, Almodóvar has become a master and now everything he does is worth looking at. It does not matter whether it is in another language, a different film style or in whatever length it may be; all this sums up into what can be referred to as Almodovarian cinema.

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