The new work by Pedro Almodóvar, ‘Strange way of life’, is already in theaters, after its triumphant appearance at the Cannes Film Festival, where the second short film in English by the director from La Mancha, a queer western starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascalwas very well received by critics and the public.
As the renowned filmmaker has said on many occasions, ‘Strange way of life’ is his response to ‘Brokeback Mountain’ (a film he was about to direct in the 90s) and aims to make visible something that is not present in classic westerns: homosexual desire. In the short, Hawke and Pascal give life respectively to a rancher and a sheriff who meet again many years after living a story of forbidden love, rekindling the flame of their passion in the middle of the investigation of a crime that concerns them both.
The short has been praised for its sensual nature, but on this occasion, Almodóvar does not show explicit sex between his protagonists, instead leaving the bed scenes to the viewers’ imagination. In a decision similar to that of Luca Guadagnino in ‘Call Me By Your Name’, Almodóvar fades to black just before the start of the carnal rapprochement between his protagonists and introduces an ellipsis that takes us directly to the moment after. It is a shocking decision, but as confirmed to eCartelera during a meeting with the press, totally deliberated by the director, who neither does it show kissing between Hawke and Pascal. Although as it also reveals, there was, there was.
“They came to kiss, I think to show me that they had no problems”, says Almodóvar about the scene in question. “When Ethan approaches Pedro, they have a very passionate kiss and a little bit of a crick in the neck, because Pedro’s back is turned and it was a little forced. But I preferred to fade to black. At the moment when a man is so stiff and so hermetic, the bond begins to unravel and approaches, the viewer’s eyes see in that character what they want”.--
“I was interested in nudity, but it was a different kind of nudity,” he continues. “It was the nakedness of desire, to name it as such, for a guy to tell the sheriff ‘you just want to fuck, you don’t give a damn about the rest, you haven’t loved anyone’. There, the ones that are naked are the words and the dialogue they maintain, and that is more eloquent to me than the fact of physical nudity“. Almodóvar relates this verbal eroticism to the cinema of the 40s, specifically thrillers and noirs, a time in which “desire is much more present among the characters than in the 70s, when everyone undresses, because they are condemned to close-up, and those gazes are infinitely stronger and more suggestive than showing the naked body”.
“I have already vented”
But there is another reason why Almodóvar has decided not to show us Hawke and Pascal rolling around in bed, and it has to do with the point at which his film career and his own life are. The director recalls his films from the 80s and 90s, in which the nude and sex were much more present, and cites ‘Tie me up!’ as an example, but recognizes that now he is less interested in showing and more in suggesting: “Since I’ve already let off steam and I’ve done many love scenes and many erotic scenes, at this point in my career and my life, I’m much more attracted to words that speak of the desire between these two men.”
“There are changes in my career that are due to biology,” he adds, referring to the evolution of his cinema in his last years. “But also to the fact that I have taken all the liberties that I have wanted and continue to take them. What happens is that for me, right now, freedom is disappointing those who think they are going to see a movie where Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal are going to frolic like kids on a bed.No, that doesn’t interest me right now. Let the others do it, let Sam Levinson do it.”.