Many years ago, in a land far far away, a fifty-something Spanish director dreamt of helming a Western featuring two young ranchers for hire going up a mountain and coming down changed by life, and making it a film which would feature "from start to finish gay sex," as the legend goes.
That land was Hollywood, the time was the early 2000's and the filmmaker was Pedro Almodóvar. The film was of course Brokeback Mountain -- that classic of male longing, broken trusts and unspoken gay love starring Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger -- and it's probably no surprise to anyone that the studio behind it decided to go a slightly more "conservative" route, with Ang Lee taking over the directing duties.
But the dream never died for Almodóvar and here he is, nearly twenty years later, with the film he described on the Dua Lipa: At Your Service podcast as "a queer western," premiering to great fanfare at the upcoming Festival de Cannes. This will be the Spanish filmmaker’s second English-language experience, after The Human Voice, starring Tilda Swinton, which premiered in Venice in September of 2020.
About Strange Way of Life Almodóvar wrote on the Cannes Film Festival announcement: "A man rides a horse across the desert that separates him from Bitter Creek. He comes to visit Sheriff Jake. Twenty-five years earlier, both the sheriff and Silva, the rancher who rides out to meet him, worked together as hired gunmen. Silva visits him with the excuse of reuniting with his friend from his youth, and they do indeed celebrate their meeting, but the next morning Sheriff Jake tells him that the reason for his trip is not to go down the memory lane of their old friendship...." There are bound to be flashbacks which explains the casting of young hunk Manu Ríos as one of the cowboys, in their younger days.
Almodóvar continued, "I must say no more so as not to give away all the surprises of the script.
The strange way of life referred in the title alludes to the famous fado by Amalia Rodrigues, whose lyrics suggest that there is no stranger existence than the one that is lived by turning your back on your own desires."
The Western, shot in the south of Spain, will be presented in the Official Selection and in world premiere, with the director and the two lead actors Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal in attendance. And let's not even get us started on how yummy the Chilean American Pascal looks in the shots released so far by Almodovar's brother Agustín on Twitter.
Expect the short film to be fantastically styled as Saint Laurent's creative director Anthony Vaccarello serves double duty here -- as costume designer but also associate producer. In fact, the film is officially presented by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello, and produced by El Deseo, Agustín Almodóvar with Esther García as executive producer and Bárbara Peiró, Diego Pajuelo and Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello as associate producers. Notably, Vaccarello has made bespoke films a key feature of his tenure at the French maison and these include a collaboration curated by Wong Kar-Wai, as well as one with Gaspar Noé.
The music for the short film, written and directed by Almodóvar, is by Alberto Iglesias, a frequent collaborator of the Spanish filmmaker on such classics as Talk to Her, All About my Mother and Volver.
Almodóvar was one of the "silver haired filmmakers," as WWD called them, featured in the recent Saint Laurent men's campaign, along with Jim Jarmusch, David Cronenberg and Abel Ferrera -- all photographed by David Sims.
On the Dua Lipa podcast, the filmmaker admitted that "this is a queer Western in the sense that there are two men, and they love each other, and they behave in that situation in an opposite way,” then continued "what it has that most Westerns don’t have is the kind of dialogue that I don’t think a Western film has ever captured between two men." Which will make this enchanting.
The screening in Cannes will be followed by a conversation with Pedro Almodóvar and the filmmaking team. And he'll be accompanied on the famous red steps by his cast and crew including Ethan Hawke, Pedro Pascal, Anthony Vaccarello, Manu Ríos, Jason Fernández, José Condessa and George Steane by his side.
Images sourced on the internet, including social media.