Written by: Dragan Vojvodić //
„Strange Way of Life„ („Extraña forma de vida“), a short queer western by Pedro Almodóvar (born in 1949) from 2023, had its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and closed the 19th Free Zone Film Festival.
Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal portray two middle-aged men on opposite sides of the law, connected by a shared emotional history. Their reunion, after a 25-year gap, rekindles their mutual sexual attraction. However, the local sheriff (Ethan Hawke) questions why it took so long for their paths to cross again after a passionate night spent with Silva (played by Pedro Pascal). He discovers that Silva’s visit is not driven by romance but rather an attempt to protect his son, who is suspected of murdering the wife of his late brother.
What sets this western apart and gives it an Almodovar-like quality, in addition to its queer theme, are the supporting characters and the aesthetics that stand out within the typical western backdrop, particularly the vibrant costume details designed in collaboration with the fashion house „Yves Saint Laurent“.
The film begins with a melancholic fado performed by Manu Rios, a Spanish actor, singer, and model, setting the stage for the queer theme. The film’s title is inspired by the song „Extraña forma de vida“ by Portuguese fado singer Amália Rodrigues.
In this short film, which is the second one directed in English by the Spanish director, you’ll also notice a range of artistic references. For instance, in the film’s closing scene, a painting by Georgia O’Keeffe is displayed on the wall, and Silva’s green jacket is strikingly similar to the one worn by James Stewart in the film „Winchester ’73“, and so on.
When we talk about inspiration, a natural comparison with American Westerns arises. Almodovar toys with a genre that, for Americans, represents a kind of national epic – a mythologized past. The film is also a response to the Oscar-winning Western „Brokeback Mountain“ directed by Ang Lee in 2005, a project that was originally offered to Almodovar, but he declined it out of fear of not having enough creative freedom in its production.
„Strange Way of Life“ has a runtime of just 31 minutes. It appears to come to a close at the very moment when one would typically expect the plot to move toward its resolution, but this deliberate interruption of conventional viewer expectations adds another layer of undeniable brilliance to the film.