Almodóvar’s “Strange Way of Life”: The Audacious Western Redefining Conventions
In Pedro Almodóvar’s latest cinematic endeavor, “Strange Way of Life”, Western traditions merge seamlessly with a contemporary twist.
Pedro’s Unique Approach to the Western
For fans of Almodóvar, the infusion of a vibrant green jacket on Pedro Pascal’s cowboy character might seem like a bold statement. Yet, Almodóvar insists this is his most convention-respecting film to date, and counters the surprise of the jacket’s inclusion with a historic fact. As proof of authenticity, the Spanish director points to the 1952 film “Bend of the River”, where James Stewart sported a similar fashion statement. “If James Stewart wears a jacket like that, so can Pedro Pascal!” he exclaims, reiterating his aim to infuse color into the traditional Western landscape.
Challenging the Western Norm
While the typical components of a Western – horses, guns, and ten-gallon hats – are present, the plot stands out due to its emotional depth. Two middle-aged men, former lovers, find their passions reignited amidst the backdrop of crime and justice. Almodóvar reveals that the inspiration for the narrative came from envisioning two cowboys reminiscing after a passionate night. The juxtaposition of their past relationship and their current circumstances adds a layer of complexity.
This intense love story interlaced with traditional Western values evokes memories of classic films such as “Casablanca”. However, unlike other stories, Sheriff Jake’s reticence hints at societal stigmas associated with same-sex relationships, a subject the director is no stranger to.
A New Age for Westerns
Addressing the topic of gay love in Westerns inevitably evokes references to the iconic “Brokeback Mountain”. Almodóvar acknowledges the film, revealing that he was once approached to direct it. Despite his respect for Ang Lee’s rendition, he envisioned a different take and feels he wouldn’t have had the freedom to execute his vision back then.
However, the director is inspired by recent innovative Westerns that have challenged traditional narratives, specifically highlighting Chloé Zhao’s “The Rider”, Kelly Reichardt’s “First Cow”, and Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog”. The infusion of fresh perspectives, especially from female directors, attests to the genre’s resilience and adaptability.
Delving into Masculinity
“Strange Way of Life” notably emphasizes male characters, contrasting with Almodóvar’s previous women-centric films like “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”. The director’s evolving focus can be linked to introspection and reminiscing about his own journey.
In terms of language, Almodóvar took a bold step by incorporating English. Following his short film “The Human Voice” with Tilda Swinton, this film acts as a precursor to his upcoming full-length English feature.
A Celebration of Desire Beyond Age
A striking aspect of the film is its focus on middle-aged love. In an industry often obsessed with youth, Almodóvar champions the depiction of desire among older individuals, emphasizing that cinema should mirror the myriad facets of reality.
As we gear up for the release of “Strange Way of Life”, it’s evident that Pedro Almodóvar remains a vanguard in the film industry, unafraid to challenge the status quo. The film promises to be a testament to his enduring vision and ability to seamlessly marry tradition with innovation. Catch it in UK cinemas on September 25, accompanied by an exclusive Almodóvar Q&A session.