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Pedro Pascal are Ethan Hawke are queer cowboys in Strange Way of Life

‘Years ago, you asked me what two men could do, living together on a ranch’

Pedro Pascal, the Chilean American actor and internet daddy, will make his next appearance after HBO’s The Last of Us and season 3 of The Mandalorian in a very different, but still mouthwatering, project. Pascal stars alongside Ethan Hawke in a queer Western short film written and directed by the Spanish master Pedro Almodóvar, which will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival next month.

Strange Way of Life is about a rancher (Pascal) who visits his old friend Sheriff Jake (Hawke); 25 years earlier, the duo had worked together as hired guns. But the pair’s reunion seems to unearth a passionate secret.

“The strange way of life referred in the title alludes to the famous fado [mournful Portuguese song] by Amalia Rodrigues, whose lyrics suggest that there is no stranger existence than the one that is lived by turning your back on your own desires,” Almodóvar says in press materials for the film.

The short’s themes are also pretty plain from the trailer: One shot has Hawke closing in to kiss the back of Pascal’s neck, and elsewhere, Pascal says in voice-over: “Years ago, you asked me what two men could do, living together on a ranch. I’ll answer you now.”

The Western genre is new to Almodóvar, although he’s always been strongly influenced by vintage Hollywood melodramas, which seems to be the mode this new film is in. Going by the trailer, it’s shot in his distinctive style, too, with eye-popping costumes and set decoration, classical shot composition, and performances of controlled passion.

Strange Way of Life is only Almodóvar’s second work in English, after 2020’s Tilda Swinton-starring short The Human Voice. The director of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and All About My Mother, known for his flamboyant farces and dramas, was courted by Hollywood in the late 1980s, but the great director Billy Wilder warned him off, and he dedicated his life to making films in Spain instead. (Strange Way of Life was shot in Spain by Almodóvar’s own production company, El Deseo.)

So why English now, and why a short film? The clue is that Strange Way of Life was co-produced by the fashion label Saint Laurent, whose head designer, Anthony Vaccarello, designed the costumes. The worlds of high fashion and art house cinema love to mix, and Saint Laurent has funded this kind of blend of auteur indulgence and long-form ad before. For directors, it’s an easy route to funding to make something a bit different to take to the festivals.

The issue is that short films aren’t always easy to see, but Almodóvar’s fame ensured that The Human Voice eventually made it to streaming on Mubi. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Strange Way of Life also land there, or somewhere like it.

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