How Pedro Almodóvar’s Gay Cowboy Short Film ‘Strange Way of Life’ Differs From ‘The Power of the Dog’: ‘They Didn’t F—’

Nine more minutes of footage would take Pedro Almodóvar’s film “Strange Way of Life” from a live action short frontrunner to a best picture contender.

To be eligible for the Academy Awards’ best picture category, a film must have a minimum 40-minute runtime. Almodóvar’s movie runs 31 minutes. With those extra nine minutes, we could also highlight the worthiness of actors Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal and the project’s artisan categories. But for his second English language endeavor, coming three years after “The Human Voice” with Tilda Swinton, the Spanish auteur’s sensibilities are never lacking. His new Spanish Western stands proudly next to some of his most audacious movies such as “Talk to Her” and “Volver.”

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A rainy Wednesday in the south of France didn’t keep crowds of ticket rushers and fans from trying to get a glimpse of Almodóvar’s short film starring Pascal and Hawke. Almodóvar and Hawke participated in a post-screening Q&A to discuss the project, sitting next to translators. Pascal was not in attendance, reportedly due to going into production this week for an unnamed role in Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator 2.”

The film tells the story of Silva (Pascal), who rides a horse across the desert to visit his friend Jake (Hawke), who is a sheriff. What follows is a story of vengeance, intrigue and forbidden love.

Almodóvar referenced Westerns such Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog” as a source of inspiration. “The lead character’s sexuality is kind of ambivalent,” Almodóvar said about Campion’s film. “But they didn’t fuck.” The line drew an eruption of laughter from the audience.

Hawke talked about how the act of pointing a camera at someone is in itself an act of love. “You are saying these people are important enough to care about. It’s always about love, in some capacity. I just like to be wanted. And if happens to be an extremely attractive man…I just like it.”

Discussing his character Jake, a sheriff who is torn by 25 years of forbidden love and the justice he aims to serve, he found the realism in his depiction. “There’s a way that we are, and a way we want to be. They’re not always the same. It creates cracks in us. Lies in us. I found him to be a fascinating character.”

Almodóvar and Hawke shared their admirations of the genre with both declaring at some point during their conversation, “The Western is very much alive.”

In a world where auteurs are becoming increasingly entitled to overly long runtimes, “Strange Way of Life” begs for more and could have easily been a full-length feature.

Signature Almodóvar imagery is on display, with wine pouring from barrels in an erotic scene that depicts younger versions of Silva and Jake. Pascal also sports a bold green jacket on his horse and a shirt that hangs just low enough to keep him from going full frontal for the audience, although his bare butt will make his fans plenty excited.

Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, the film will be released later in 2023.

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