Pedro Almodovar and I were discussing green jackets, specifically the vibrant jackets worn by Pedro Pascal’s cowboy in the Spanish director’s neo-western film, strange lifestyle.

“This is my first film where I don’t mix genres and the only one where I respect the rules,” Almodóvar said via Zoom from his office in Madrid. “There’s nothing out of place about the clothing, language, etc.”

I’d venture to say, maybe except for that leaf-green jacket—those things certainly didn’t exist in the Old West. “Yes, even that exists!” Almodovar shot back with a triumphant smile. “In a film by Anthony Mann called river bend, James Stewart wore a jacket like that. ” An assistant was called to produce photographic evidence on his mobile phone. “I wanted to add color but didn’t know how. . .So I was happy to find out river bend. If James Stewart could wear a jacket like this, so could Pedro Pascal! “

Movie star James Stewart wears green jacket and Stetson hat for cowboy movie shoot
James Stewart in green jacket in Anthony Mann’s 1952 film “A Bend in the River” © Alamy
Pedro Almodovar and actor Pedro Pascal discuss movie scenes
The director talks to Pedro Pascal in a green jacket about a scene on the set of “Strange Lifestyles”

It’s a typically but rare Almodóvaresque touch in a film that mostly follows convention: A rancher (Pascal) rides back to the old desert town he left years ago to protect his wayward son, who is wanted for murder by the local Sheriff (Ethan Hawke). There will be horses, pistols, ten-gallon hats and a climactic shootout. There is only one notable break from classic Western tradition: the two middle-aged men were once lovers, and their new encounter rekindles the flames of desire.

“The first thing I wrote was two old cowboys waking up after a night of alcohol and sex,” Almodóvar said of the film, which runs just 31 minutes. “What interests me the most is their dialogue and each character’s reaction to that night – everyone has a very unique reaction.”

This collision of irrepressible love and impossible circumstances reminds me of wartime Hollywood romances, e.g. Casablanca, I told him. “There’s romance, but on the other hand there’s also a Western element. . . . Traditional values ​​are combined with this seemingly one-sided story of passion. Because Sheriff Jack doesn’t react like a man in love, quite the opposite, as if to say, ‘Nothing’s going on here, it’s just alcohol,’ is a typical male response to homosexual desire.”

In any discussion about gay cowboys, especially one with Almodovar, it’s impossible not to mention Brokeback Mountain, He was approached to direct the film, but ultimately turned it down. As he told me in 2014, “I really liked[Lee’s]version, but I always imagined it differently, and I didn’t think I could make it the way I wanted to make it. They wouldn’t let me That’s what it does.”

I wonder if the same holds true today. Nearly 20 years later, is same-sex love still taboo in American Westerns? Broken arm? “I’ve never felt anything taboo, but obviously it’s a forbidden subject for directors who make[classic]westerns. . . . I find it strange that I’ve never found a film about desire between two men. movie. That’s why I’m interested in solving this problem.”

A scene from the movie shows a man on horseback
Ethan Hawke plays the local Sheriff in a scene from the movie. Almodóvar said: “He is an atypical adventurer”

The emergence of several bold and original new westerns in recent years has further piqued his interest: Zhao Ting’s knight (2017), Kelly Reichardt first cow (2019) and Jane Campion’s dog power (2021), in which repressed homosexuality plays a key role.

“Oddly enough, these three films were all made by women and are all very different, bringing a new perspective to the genre. Whether the Western continues to be popular depends on the vision of the writer or director.” He also pointed out new examples of this form that are more traditional, such as TV series yellowstone park. “It’s all very masculine – even the women. Kevin Costner’s daughter is more masculine than any cowboy.”

strange lifestyle The film is also predominantly male, which is striking for a director known for giving women prospects in famous films woman on the verge of nervous breakdown, everything about my mother and return. A shift occurred in 2019 pain and gloryThe film focuses primarily on male characters, with Antonio Banderas playing a thinly disguised version of Almodóvar himself.

“It’s true that I’m more interested in making films about men than before,” the 73-year-old director said. “I think it has to do with age and looking back at memories and seeing parts of your own life.”

The new film also differs in language. It’s only Almodóvar’s second English-language screenplay — he wrote it in Spanish and then translated it — and his first fully original screenplay to include English dialogue (released in 2020) human voice A soliloquy by Jean Cocteau, delivered by Tilda Swinton). All of this is a preview of his first full-length English-language feature, A Very Intimate Story of Women, which will be shot in New York early next year. “Both (short films) were experiments to see if I had the ability to work in this language,” he said.

A woman in a red silk nightgown sits on a bed covered with a velvet green quilt and under the bed is a Renaissance painting of a female nude
Tilda Swinton stars in 2020 short film The Voice, Almodovar’s first English-language film © Alamy

To this end, his casting choices strange lifestyle All are shrewd, starting with Hawke, one of the most European of American actors—”he’s atypical, an adventurer”—and Pascal (the movie star) The Mandalorian and the last of us), who was born in Chile, came to the set “fascinated by the change of vocal range and showing that he could do something very different.”

Did he detect a difference working with American-trained actors? “We have to adapt to each other and I have to explain how I work,” he said. “During pre-production, I insisted on rehearsing a lot, because of insecurities, for example, but also because that’s what I’d always done. Even though we’d already started shooting, I would be rehearsing when they were setting up the lights. I realized they weren’t I’m so used to this way of working.”

Key to the project’s success is how the two actors connect on screen, with the drama driven by their wistful looks and intense inner conflicts. “There was an instant chemistry between them, which helped me a lot in my job,” Almodóvar said.

Could it be that the real taboo now is not that the two lovers are men – or even cowboys – but that they are approaching or over 50? “Not for me, but we rarely see it. I think it’s the effect of marketing. The most important thing in marketing propaganda is youth… But the desire exists in people over 50 and should show it because it is Real — and movies should reflect some type of reality.”

Perhaps it is this desire for emotional authenticity that has kept Almodovar at the forefront of art cinema for more than 40 years. I ask him whether audiences have become more conservative since he started making films during Madrid’s post-Franco Movida heyday in the late 1970s.

“Society as a whole has become more conservative, including Spain,” he said. “America is also much more conservative than it was 30 years ago. . . . A wave of puritanism is sweeping the country, which, coupled with far-right politics, raises concerns about free speech. Sadly, society has become more conservative – I try Fight it.”

Bizarre Ways of Life will be released in the UK on September 25, with an Almodóvar Q&A


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