Pedro Almodovar’s Cannes Short Film With Pedro Pascal Is So Hot

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CANNES, France—The first thing you notice about Pedro Almodóvar’s new gay cowboy short film Strange Way of Life is how beautiful everything is. In fact, I noticed it even before the movie started when the cast took the stage at the Cannes Film Festival. The eternally attractive Ethan Hawke, who co-stars with Pedro Pascal, was joined by a group of four absolute hunks. “You can see the beauties I am with,” Almodóvar said upon taking the stage, before adding, “but they are also very good actors.”

And then the movie started and the beauty only enhanced. In this 30-minute short, the men are beautiful, the landscape is beautiful, the clothes are beautiful, and even the horses are beautiful. (Like, these are not your normal movie horses. They are stunning movie horses.)

The fact that everything is so gorgeous makes sense. Not only is this the work of Almodóvar, a man who infuses his images with colors so vivid you view them in ways you never imagined before, it’s also produced by fashion icon Saint Laurent and its creative director Anthony Vaccarello.

But Strange Way of Life doesn’t feel like a fashion house advertisement, even though Pascal and Hawke are wearing bespoke duds. (Pascal’s technicolor green jacket is an instantly covetable look.) Instead it’s a very Almodóvar tale, a melodrama laced with a hint of violence about two old lovers who meet after 25 years.

The film opens with yet another beautiful man singing a plaintive ballad, as a rancher named Silva (Pascal) rides into town to visit his old friend Jake (Hawke), now a sheriff. (Pascal was not on the ground in Cannes, but his entrance was met with some wolf-whistle adjacent “woos” from those seated near me.) Silva explains he is there to see a doctor for his bad back. They two have dinner, drink wine, and then end up in bed together. The morning after the two have sex, Jake remarks that Silva must have lied about the reason for his arrival: His back doesn’t seem all that bad.

It’s here I will note: that Strange Way of Life isn’t all that explicit. Almodóvar shows Hawke staring at Pascal’s ass before approaching and kissing his neck, followed by a cut to black. There is some brief post-coital nudity, but that’s all. But this is not to say that it’s not sensual. The director is more interested in the tumultuous history of the lovers than he is in other provocations.

Soon their interaction turns hostile when Jake realizes why Silva has really returned: He is there to protect his son, who is suspected to have murdered Jake’s dead brother’s wife. The tryst turns into a chase, where both have lustful memories of the first time they hooked up. (In these wine-drenched flashbacks they are portrayed by two extremely hot younger, modelesque actors.)

Without spoiling what happens, Almodóvar finds an ending that is both very romantic and a little fucked up. Think: Gay western Phantom Thread.

Because of the all too brief running time it’s possible to feel a little shortchanged by Strange Way of Life. You want more of these characters and these images. At the same time, it’s a pleasure to get to spend a tiny bit of time in Almodóvar’s vision of what a western can be.

At Cannes, the premiere was followed by a conversation with Hawke and the director, which was largely conducted in French and Spanish. But when Almodóvar did answer a question in English, he discussed the western’s place in modern cinema. He highlighted recent films by directors Jane Campion, Kelly Reichardt, and Chloé Zhao as examples of how the genre is alive, before throwing in pointed diss toward Taylor Sheridan’s TV show Yellowstone, as evidence of how not to do it. “To me the series is very traditional, in the worst way,” he said.

So maybe just think of Strange Way of Life as Pedro Almodóvar’s anti-Yellowstone. And isn’t that exciting?

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