TIFF 2023 | Strange Way of Life (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain) — In Conversation With…

By Saffron Maeve

In which Pedro Almodóvar vows to suspend anachronisms and remain faithful to the genre of the Western: Strange Way of Life, the director’s latest 30-minute short sees two former lovers, Jake (Ethan Hawke) and Silva (Pedro Pascal), reuniting after 25 years, just as a murder is being pieced together in town. Due to a distinctive limp, Silva’s son is the prime suspect, and thus, his motivations for reconnecting with Jake—town sheriff and brother-in-law of the deceased—become tangly. The aging auteur slackens the melodrama which defines his core work (up to, even, The Human Voice [2020], his previous short film), a postmodern approach which refracts Almodóvar’s more solitary mode of living. 

Packaged as an “answer to Brokeback Mountain” (which Almodóvar turned down 20 years back), Strange Way finds gay domesticity—both as an observed and private practice—at the core of this pair’s complicated desires. What’s odd is the elliptic sex scene, which starts as Jake’s breath on Silva’s neck and cuts to Pascal, ass above the sheets the next morning. They touch later, in equally vulnerable, sticky ways, but the decision to keep these men at a distance from one another (except in flashback, which is cheating) only fuels their joint contempt and affection. “Words are more expressive than bodies,” Almodóvar tells our audience before the screening, which resonates only in the film’s final bit of dialogue. Bodies talk, words listen, it seems.