Tag Archives: Pedro Almodovar

Strange Way of Life-2023

Strange Way of Life-2023

Director Pedro Almodóvar

Starring Ethan Hawke, Pedro Pascal

Scott’s Review #1,425

Reviewed April 22, 2024

Grade: A-

Pedro Almodóvar is a unique film director. Spanish, his films are flavorful, saucy, and unpredictable. He tends to mix melodrama, wacky humor, and a colorful landscape frequently sprinkling LGBTQ+ elements even if they are not classified with that specific genre.

I adore his films though they frequently blur together for me.

Though a Spanish film, Strange Way of Life (2023) is only Almodóvar’s second English language film and to my knowledge his first short feature film.

Watching the brief thirty-one-minute offering I fantasized about a full-length feature or even a television series based on the story and characters.

Since it’s short we get right down to business quickly.

One day Silva (Pedro Pascal) rides a horse across the desert to Bitter Creek to visit Sheriff Jake (Ethan Hawke). It is quickly revealed that twenty-five years earlier, the sheriff and Silva, worked together as hired gunmen.

They fell in love during a passionate encounter with three whores and barrels of wine who ditched the men when they realized they were not valued.

Silva provides Jake with the excuse that the reason for his trip is not to go down the memory lane of their old friendship but rather to rescue his son Joe (George Steane) from persecution for being suspected of killing Jake’s late brother’s wife, also a whore.

After Jake and Silva sip wine and enjoy a lovely meal they quickly engage in animalistic sex and reignite their long-dormant passion.

While Silva is gung-ho about reuniting Jake has reservations.

Pascal, who is everywhere due to the success of his television series The Last of Us is fabulous to watch. His sexy machismo pairs well with his passion for his soulmate. Because his character of Silva intends for him and Jake to live out their days running a ranch he is a more inspiring character than Jake.

This point is a nod to the groundbreaking Brokeback Mountain (2006) whose characters also flirted with running a ranch together during a time when any gay relations were forbidden territory.

Hawke is quite good too though I’m partial to Pascal. Buttoned up and law-abiding he rebuffs Silva’s advances, at first.

It’s nice to see Hawke in a gay role. Both characters are masculine thereby dismissing silly LGBTQ+ stereotypes that too often appear in cinema.

It also doesn’t hurt to get a glimpse of Pascal’s bare butt or Hawke’s buff physique as they while away time in the bedroom.

I love the sweaty and muscular Western genre being the backdrop of an LGBTQ+ film and tipped upside down. Not to reduce it to a tepid John Wayne film cliche there exists a gorgeous and melodic fado singer throughout the film.

It is performed by Manu Ríos.

This counterbalances the Quentin Tarantino-ish blood and violence with lovely music.

The film is titled after a 1960s Portuguese fado song by Amália Rodrigues

Since Strange Way of Life is a brief experience many facets could have been explored. Why did Silva leave Jake in the first place? What made him suddenly have a realization after twenty-five years? Were there other men at that time?

Being critical that the film is short and deserves full-length feature status it nonetheless deserves to be towards the top of Almodóvar’s catalog a testament to its power.

Strange Way of Life (2023) successfully takes a macho genre like the Western and lights it on fire proving that two men can be tough and tenderly love each other.

Law of Desire-1987

Law of Desire-1987

Director Pedro Almodovar

Starring Antonio Banderas, Eusebio Poncela, Carmen Maura

Scott’s Review #1,021

Reviewed May 8, 2020

Grade: B+

Law of Desire or La ley del Deseo (as translated in original Spanish) is a 1987 film written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar.

Quite groundbreaking for its time and penned by a respected director, the film was rich in offering what was rarely presented in films during the 1980s- a complex love triangle between two men and a trans woman.

The fact that the trans woman is the sister of one of the men is a bonus to the buttery soap opera premise.

In 2020, when LGBTQ+ films are more plentiful in cinema (at least at the indie level), Law of Desire suffers slightly from a dated feel and parts drag along. It’s tough to heavily criticize a piece so brazen as this one was when it was released to art-house theaters and musty metropolitan theaters.

As groundbreaking as the film must be given credit for, the story now feels sillier than it should, and more outlandish than it probably intended to be over thirty years ago.

The fabulous setting of Madrid, Spain is the backdrop for the luscious tale of love, obsession, jealousy, and revenge, think the prime-time television series Dynasty on steroids.

Cocky Pablo (Eusebio Poncela), a successful gay film director with his pick from a bevy of young, good-looking gay males, is madly in love with Juan (Miguel Molina), though he has a roving eye.

Suave Antonio (Antonio Banderas), who comes from a conservative family, is new to the gay scene and falls madly in love with Pablo when Juan goes to find himself. Tina (Carmen Maura), who likes men and women, has just been dumped and is vulnerable.

Besides the obvious daring gender-bending, this story could be a simple one told many times across many genres. Almodóvar spins things into a frenzy as the plot unfolds adding manipulations, sub-plots, and bizarre characters into the mix.

For example, Ada is Tina’s surrogate daughter and is a precocious ten-year-old girl in love with Pablo. Ada refuses to go back with her mother (Bibi Andersen) when she comes back to whisk her off to Milan to meet a man she just met.

The gay subtext is what is center stage here. Back in the 1980s, the term LGBTQ+ was on nobody’s radar, and having any representation at all in cinema was still territory barely scratching the surface.

This point kept returning to me throughout the film and I imagined how fresh the experience would have been to any gay man or gay woman fortunate enough to have seen it. I am not sure any of the characters would serve as great role models, but the representation is nice.

Almodóvar adds in a good deal of naked flesh for an added treat.

Several comic scenes arise with gusto. Antonio, who lives at home with a religious zealot of a mother, convinces Pablo to sign his letters from “Laura P”, a character from his latest play, to trick Antonio’s nosy mama.

Tina, not much of an actress, is cast in Pablo’s one-woman theatrical productions. She thinks her performance is great, but Pablo thinks she stinks. The comical moments are the ones that work best, giving the plentiful offbeat characters a chance to let loose and shine.

Towards the conclusion, Law of Desire takes a tragic and Shakespearean turn. A drunken Juan is thrown off a cliff to his death prompting an investigation with Antonio and Pablo both prime suspects.

Finally, a kidnapping and police stand-off ensues with a murder/suicide providing the film’s final moments.

I am not a fan of the title that Almodóvar chooses. Preferably would be a title that is a bit more titillating. Even Lust of Desire or Object of My Desire would have been better choices. Law of Desire screams of a tepid episode of television’s Law & Order.

For a director with such an outlandish approach and such bizarre characters, the title is bland, banal, and tough to remember.

Those seeking a kinky and provocative late-night affair will find Law of Desire (1987) a good old time. It lacks much of a clear message instead providing a sexy romp and dreary ending.

Running the gamut of adding musical score pieces as unique as the 1970s The Conformist, a film also shrouded in same-sex desire, to cheesy 1980s synth-laden beats, adds some confusion.

Nonetheless, diversity and inclusiveness are good recipes to chow down on and celebrate.

Wild Tales-2014

Wild Tales-2014

Director Damian Szifron

Starring Liliana Ackerman

Scott’s Review #374


Reviewed February 5, 2016

Grade: A

What a crazy adventure!

Receiving a well-deserved 2015 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award nomination, Wild Tales is a Spanish film that weaves six unique vignettes together.

Each tale involves conflict between characters and centers around the subject of revenge. Each reminds me of a foreign language version of a Twilight Zone episode, albeit much darker, mixed with a prevalent Quentin Tarantino influence.

A psychopath arranges for all of his enemies to be on the same flight (“Pasternack”), a hit-and-run accident among a wealthy family turns murderous (“The Proposal”), a bomb expert turns his expertise onto a corrupt towing company (“Little Bomb”), a disturbed bride and groom bizarrely celebrate their wedding reception (“Until Death Do Us Part”), a revenge-driven waitress waits on her rival (“The Rats”) a brutal tale of road rage (“The Strongest”) are the stories told in this fantastic film.

Wild Tales is an outrageous journey and as each chapter unfolds we are treated to the unexpected and each is cleverly written- bear in mind that they are independent stories and have nothing to do with each other chronologically or otherwise.

The vignettes also vary vastly. One as short as ten minutes and another hovering around the forty-minute mark.

Some characters are sympathetic and hateful, which is interesting in itself. The diner in “The Rats” is despised and we wish for his demise.

After “Little Bomb”, the protagonist (or antagonist depending on how you look at it) receives a hero’s welcome for standing up to corruption.

In other stories, particularly in “The Strongest”, all the characters are unlikeable.

Famed director Pedro Almodovar (The Skin I Live In, Volver)  does not direct Wild Tales but does produce the project and his imprint is all over it. Almodovar has a thing for the weird and, as in 2013’s I’m So Excited, a thing for passengers in peril inside airplanes.

After “Pasternack”, the first installment, one will experience an “OMG!” moment, which wisely sets the tone for the entire movie.

We wait and wonder what can happen next.

My favorite tale is between “The Proposal” and “The Strongest”. I love the class distinction evident in the former as a wealthy father struggles to cover up his family’s dirty deeds initially at any cost necessary, but has he finally had enough?

Will the wealthy once again victimize the poor?

In the latter, class distinction is again explored, as a hotshot in a slick car angers a simple man in a battered car, only to regret his outburst of road rage.

The story turns into a Lord of the Flies situation where it is “kill or be killed”. The clever ending for this one is fantastic as the officials completely misinterpret the events.

The most bizarre tale is “Until Death Do Us Part”, which is also the finale.  A glorious and festive Jewish wedding reception turns bitter and bloody as the bride’s jealousy is tested. But is the bride the unstable partner or is the groom? Or perhaps both?

This chapter reminds me of a Quentin Tarantino film (must have been The Bloody Bride), as the tone and the texture are reminiscent of his films (and yes, the blood too!).

Unusual, delightful, and sometimes even deranged, Wild Tales (2014) is a nice reminder that there are still creative and left-of-center projects being made in modern film that must be experienced and enjoyed.

This is not an ordinary, predictable film making it quite a gem.

Oscar Nominations: Best Foreign Language Film

I’m So Excited-2013

I’m So Excited-2013

Director Pedro Almodovar

Starring Antonio de la Torre, Hugo Silva

Scott’s Review #25


Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: B-

The latest offering by superb Spanish director, Pedro Almodovar, who directed the brilliantly disturbing The Skin I Live In (2011) a few years ago, returns with a vast departure.

He delves into a campy, lighthearted, yarn about a group of passengers and crew aboard a troubled flight in I’m So Excited (2013).

The group turns to booze and drugs to console themselves and a circus ensues.

Someone had described this as the gay Airplane! (1980) and that is fitting. Everyone on board is gay, bi-curious, or otherwise sexually confused and the one-liners keep coming.

The premise sounds hysterical, but sadly, the film does not measure up to expectations.

FYI: I felt Airplane! was overrated.

Funny moments, but the “over-the-topness” was too much to take remotely seriously and somehow did not hold my attention throughout.

Not Almodovar’s best work by a longshot.