Actual News Magazine
Interview with Pedro Almodóvar | Love in the Wild West
By Son Dakika
October 13, 2023
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Pedro Almodóvar’s new opus, Strange Way of Life, is a short queer western, with the characteristic signature of the Spanish master. The Press met the director in the Queen City last month, during his visit to the Toronto Film Festival which paid tribute to him this year.
(Toronto) White, full hair, tired features, Pedro Almodóvar is in spirits on this late September afternoon. Despite the time difference and the chain interviews.
The filmmaker welcomes The Press in his suite at the Fairmont Royal York. Our interview is done half in English, and half in Spanish, with an interpreter. “I can read French, but not speak it. My French lessons go back too long,” apologizes the director who turned 74 on September 25.
He is accompanied by his team, including his inseparable brother, Agustín, with whom he founded the production company El Deseo, in 1985. From the name of his company to the title of his first success in Europe, including this new story of the love between two cowboys played by Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke, desire – satisfied or sublimated, hetero or homo – has always been at the center of Almodóvar’s cinema.
It’s impossible not to question him about this from the outset. “Desire is a driving force in my art and a reason to celebrate life,” he explains. But desire is also a source of pain and suffering. My vision of desire therefore has two facets: something both very hard and very beautiful. »
In Strange Way of Life (Strange Way of Living in French version), the director of Volver explores the dark side of desire: homoeroticism in classic American Westerns. A fan of the genre, he has seen several old westerns, Johnny Guitar has Eldorado. But it’s the movie Warlock (The Man with the Gold Collars) that inspired him for this cheerful western, co-produced with the fashion house Saint Laurent. This ventures into film production for the first time with the auteur film star.
George Steane, Jason Fernández, Ethan Hawke, Pedro Almodóvar, José Condessa, and Manu Ríos, at the premiere of Strange Way of Life, in Cannes last May
” In Warlock, the homoerotic side of the relationship between Anthony Quinn and Henry Fonda, especially at the end, is obvious today, says the filmmaker. However, the word “homosexuality” is never mentioned in the film. However, if the two cowboys are not in love, the film makes no sense! »
The puritanism of the time prevented cinema from talking openly about love between two men. And even in 2023, the Western remains an exclusively heterosexual genre.
This is his second film shot in English after The Human Voice (The Human Voice)released in 2020, and starring Tilda Swinton (the latter will be presented in theaters as a double bill with Strange Way of Life). In the film, Hawke plays Jake, a sheriff who sees a cowboy arrives at his house, Silva (Pascal) who has crossed the desert on horseback to see him again. The two men had a brief love affair 25 years ago. These reunions awaken desire… But things are more complicated than that in the imagination of the Wild West.
The director had no difficulty convincing these two stars to star in Strange Way of Life. “They are two fantastic actors, with opposite but complementary characters. » He met Hawke 15 years ago when he was acting in the theater The Cherry Orchard, directed by Sam Mendes, on tour in Madrid. He wanted to work with Pascal, long before he became famous with The Last of Us.
Although there is nudity on screen, the film remains quite modest.
The scene that journalists talk to me about the most, surprisingly, is when Pedro makes bed with Ethan when he gets up. I didn’t know when I turned it that it would cause people to talk. I answer them: “Yes, homosexuals also make their beds in the morning!”
His next American film
“What can two men living together on a ranch do? asks Silva at the end of the film – a nod to a line from Ennis (played by Heath Ledger) in Brokeback Mountain. During the premiere of Strange Way of Life in Cannes last May, Almodóvar had rightly said that it was his “response to Brokeback Mountain “. Remember that in the early 2000s, the Spanish director was approached by Hollywood for the project which would ultimately be entrusted to Ang Lee. With the immense success that we know
“I didn’t feel comfortable making a film in English, that’s why I refused. But now, I feel capable of doing it,” he says, 20 years later. Moreover, the director will make his first feature film in the language of Shakespeare, The Room Next Door, which is scheduled to begin filming in New York in March 2024. The storyline centers on the friendship between three women, played by two British actresses and an American. But Agustín, sitting in the living room, breaks his silence by waving his arms towards us to signal his brother not to say more!
This leads us to talk to him about his infinite love of actresses in his cinema. Can he define his muses? What is a chica Almodóvar on screen? “I like expressive, eccentric actresses with character. They must be able to be comical and dramatic at the same time. My performers are beautiful, but the spectrum of beauty is broad in my eyes. They are sophisticated and natural. They must have a sense of humor and not take themselves seriously. In the United States, Bette Midler and Shirley MacLaine are chicas Almodóvar. »
Like Michel Tremblay, who, as a child, hid under the kitchen table to listen to the women’s conversations in the house on rue Fabre, little Almodóvar, aged 4 or 5, observed his mother, his sisters, and his neighbors. “The women were talking among themselves on the patio where I spent my days. They tackled the difficulties of life: incest, unmarried mothers, and other very hard things. It was these women of my mother’s generation, both strong and in the shadows, who saved Spain from poverty and misery after the war. »
In theaters from October 20