The premiere of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar’s queer Western left quite an impression at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday. The film, featuring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal as conflicted lovers, was met with high praise, leaving the audience eager for more.

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Despite the torrential rain on the French Riviera, Strange Way of Life, a 31-minute feature, became the most sought-after ticket, drawing hundreds of people under their umbrellas. Regrettably, many were turned away at the eleventh hour, leaving them irate.

Those fortunate enough to gain entry was treated to a Q&A with the film’s director, Almodovar, now 73. He spoke about his second-ever English-language project, following another short film featuring Tilda Swinton, The Human Voice. The film also included a brief display of Chilean-born Pascal’s posterior onscreen, the sole nudity in a film that favored dialogue and emotional intimacy over explicit sex scenes.

Pascal, 48, who skyrocketed to global fame with the TV hit The Last of Us, portrays Silva, an ex-gunslinger. He pays a visit to an old friend, Sheriff Jake, portrayed by Ethan Hawke with a husky voice. Almodovar describes their night together as “orgiastic.” Yet, the mood shifts next morning as it is revealed that “both of them have an ulterior motive,” according to Almodovar. The film explores their struggle with mutual affection, duties, family, and what it means for two men to forge a life together.

Almodovar, a self-proclaimed fan of the genre, said, “I wanted to create a classic Western that discusses the desire between two cowboys.” While he appreciates Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, he sees his film as the first truly queer Western. Comparing his work to Power of the Dog, a 2021 film featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, Almodovar pointed out its protagonist’s ambivalent sexuality and the lack of open discussion about desire.

But the director’s interest extends beyond eroticism. “My films have had many scenes of explicit sex, but as time passes, I desire to portray pleasure in a different light,” said Almodovar, a regular at Cannes who received the best director award in 1999 for All About My Mother and best screenplay for Volver in 2006. He also drew attention to the everyday details in his film, asserting that “in no other Western have you seen two men making a bed.”

Pascal, dubbed the “Internet’s Daddy” due to his enormous popularity, was absent from the screening. However, Hawke was in attendance and lauded the opportunity to work on “a Western that wasn’t pretending to be old… and to get a chance to work with Almodovar.” Regarding the depiction of desire with Pascal, he candidly said: “I like to be desired, and if it happens to be a very attractive, highly talented man, all the better.”

Among the many laudatory reviews, Variety magazine commended the film: “In a world where auteurs are becoming increasingly entitled to overly long runtimes, Strange Way of Life begs for more.”

With AFP