Almodovar's 'queer' Western heats up rainy Cannes

US actor Ethan Hawke (L) and Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar arrive for the screening of the film "Extrana Forma de Vida" (Strange Way of Life) during the 76th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on 17 May, 2023.AFP

The premiere of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's queer Western, with Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal as tormented lovers, received rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday and left many wanting more.

The 31-minute ‘Strange Way of Life’ was the hottest ticket in town on the French Riviera, with hundreds lining up huddled under umbrellas in the pouring rain, many of them left furious after being turned away at the last minute.

Those who got in were treated to the presence of Almodovar, 73, discussing only his second-ever English-language project -- following another short film with Tilda Swinton, ‘The Human Voice’ -- as well as a flash of Pascal's backside onscreen -- the only nudity in a movie which chose dialogue and tender moments over explicit sex.

Also Read

The Chilean-born Pascal, 48, who has become a global icon thanks to TV hit ‘The Last of Us’, stars as former gunslinger Silva.

He travels to see an old acquaintance, Ethan Hawke as a raspy-voiced Sheriff Jake, and the two spend what Almodovar calls an "orgiastic" night.

The next morning, however, the tone changes, as it emerges "both of them have an ulterior motive," said Almodovar.

The two men grapple with their feelings for each other, duty, family, and what it would look like for two men to actually build a life together.

"I wanted to make a classic Western where I talk about the desire between two cowboys," said Almodovar, an avowed fan of the genre.

Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar (C) arrives with (from L) Spanish actor Manu Rios, Spanish actor Jason Fernandez, US actor Ethan Hawke, Belgian-Italian producer and creative director of Yves Saint Laurent Anthony Vaccarello, Portuguese actor Jose Condessa and actor George Steane for the screening of the film "Extrana Forma de Vida" (Strange Way of Life) during the 76th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on 17 May, 2023.

He said ‘Brokeback Mountain’ by Ang Lee has come the closest, but sees his film as the first "really queer Western".

He compared his film to 2021's ‘Power of the Dog’ starring Benedict Cumberbatch but said "the sexuality of (its) protagonist is very ambivalent. They never talk about desire, and of course they didn't" have sex, he said, drawing laughter from the audience.

Not that he is only interested in eroticism.

"My movies have had many scenes of explicit sex, but as time goes by, I want to show pleasure in another way," said Almodovar, a regular at Cannes, where he won best director in 1999 for ‘All About My Mother’ and best screenplay for ‘Volver’ in 2006.

He also highlighted the seemingly banal details of the film, saying "in no Western have you seen two men making a bed."

Rave reviews

Pascal, who is so popular he has been dubbed the "Internet's Daddy," did not attend the screening.

Hawke was present and hailed the chance to work on "a Western that wasn't pretending to be old... and to get a chance to work with Almodovar."

Asked about expressing desire with Pascal, he said: "I like to be wanted, I don't care and if it happens to be a very attractive, extremely talented man, all the better."

Variety magazine was among many to praise the film, saying: "In a world where auteurs are becoming increasingly entitled to overly long runtimes, 'Strange Way of Life' begs for more."

Also Read