All roads lead to Brokeback Mountain. Sixteen years after Ang Lee’s seminal Western shockingly lost best-picture at the Oscars, the movie’s legacy reverberates. Earlier this year, Sam Elliott’s criticism of The Power of the Dog and its queer cowboy played by Benedict Cumberbatch (“They’re all runnin’ around in chaps and no shirts. There’s all these allusions to homosexuality throughout the fuckin’ movie”) invoked homophobic reception to Brokeback from some in Hollywood. Now, filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar is using the film as inspiration of sorts for his upcoming short, Strange Way of Life.
Set to begin shooting in late August, the film stars Ethan Hawke as a sheriff named Jake and Pedro Pascal as the gunslinger Silva, IndieWire reports. The pair live on opposite sides of the desert in Spain’s Almería region and reunite after 25 years apart. “So one of them travels through the desert to find the other,” Almodóvar told the outlet. “There will be a showdown between them, but really the story is very intimate.” When asked if the storyline would be romantic, he replied, “You can guess. I mean, masculinity is one of the subjects of the movie.”
Almodóvar then declared that the 30-minute Western “could be like my answer to Brokeback Mountain,” which becomes especially meaningful when one considers his vision for that film. Before Lee won his first best director Oscar for Brokeback, Almodóvar was approached about the project. “I think Ang Lee made a wonderful movie, but I never believed that they would give me complete freedom and independence to make what I wanted,” Almodóvar said of passing on the movie. “Nobody told me that—they said, ‘You can do whatever you want,’ but I knew that there was a limitation.”
In Almodóvar’s mind, the forbidden love story between Heath Ledger’s Ennis and Jake Gyllenhaal’s Jack “is animalistic.” He told IndieWire, “It was a physical relationship. The punch of the movie comes when they have to separate, and Heath Ledger discovers that he can’t think about leaving. That’s a strong discovery. But until that moment, it is animalistic, and for me it was impossible to have that in the movie because it was a Hollywood movie. You could not have these two guys fucking all the time.”
This isn’t the first time Almodóvar has hinted at his Brokeback intentions. “More sex, more sex,” he told the Empire podcast in 2016 about his own vision. “And it’s not gratuitous. The Annie Proulx [short story] is about a physical relation, an animal relation, so sex is necessary because it is the body of the story.” In 2019, he told Vulture, “I was sure that I couldn’t do it as physical as I wanted to. Perhaps I will one day make a movie in English, but it will be with European money, then I can be as free as I am now.”
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