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Ethan Hawke, Brokeback Mountain and Almería: Almodóvar goes west
Wednesday, June 29, 2022 @ 8:26 PM

JUST when you thought you knew what to expect from 'an Almodóvar film', the cult director from Castilla-La Mancha serves up something completely off the menu – and it's getting to the stage where there are few cinema genres left he hasn't dabbled in.

Ethan Hawke (left), shown here in the 2022 production Moon Knight, is due to star in Pedro Almodóvar's next film (photo: IMDb)

Nowadays, newcomers to Pedro Almodóvar's works and with little knowledge of Spanish cultural and societal background would find the first decade or so of his films to be alarming, unsettling and perhaps OTT – but the melodrama, hypersexualised plots, characters and scenes, and overall no-holds-barred flamboyance are a valuable piece of artistic history: From his début Pepa, Luci, Bom in 1980 through kitsch and off-the-wall productions such as The Law of Desire, High Heels, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Kika, and Live Flesh – the latter based upon the Ruth Rendell novel – the most international of Spain's film-makers was a leading light in the 10 or 15 years following the death of dictator General Franco, whose extreme and rigid censorship of media, literature, music and cinema went to the grave with him and gave industry figures free rein to go completely the other way.

Later works gradually became more introspective, darker in some cases, dealing with existential crises, ethical debates, troubled relationships, and family dynamics – including the semi-autobiographical multiple Goya-winning Dolor y Gloria (Pain and Glory), starring Antonio Banderas – albeit with a bit of comic relief thrown in now and again, such as in I'm So Excited (Amantes Pasajeros in the original), taking place entirely inside a passenger aircraft.

Almodóvar's 'lockdown film', a 15-minute short based upon Les Enfants Terribles' Jean Cocteau's story The Human Voice, was his first production entirely in English and with just one cast member – British-Australian actress and former schoolmate of Princess Diana, Tilda Swinton.

Pedro Almodóvar (left) and Tilda Swinton, who starred in the cult director's first-ever English-language film, The Human Voice

His second English-language film, and the first full-length non-Spanish feature, will be an adaptation of Lucia Berlin's short story collection Manual for Cleaning Women, with Aussie legend Cate Blanchett tipped to be one of the lead players.

So, what does he have up his sleeve this time?

Sci-Fi? Cop-chase crime thrillers? A Mediaeval costume drama? A Christmassy rom-com starring Hugh Grant? Something for kids?


A side-order of short-ish spaghetti

Neither a full film nor a short, but somewhere in between, with a Spanish- and English-speaking cast, a sort-of literary adaptation, a romance, but above all, a western, are the next big thing for the scriptwriter from Calzada de Calatrava (Ciudad Real province).

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain, which Almodóvar's film is said to be a ‘response to’ (photo: IMDb)

IndieWire has described the 30-minute production as a raunchier version of Brokeback Mountain, which Almodóvar narrowly missed directing.

In the end, the screen version of Annie Proulx's cowboy romance was created by Ang Lee, but Almodóvar said if he had been behind it in the end, it 'would have had a lot more sex in it'.

And where better to portray the American West than in Spain's south-east?



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