Strange Way of Life (2023) Almodovar By Saint Laurent B+

Did you ever ponder the question; what is the difference between YSL and Saint Laurent, les plus chics des marques françaises? Probably not! However, since the upcoming short film, “Strange Way of Life,” written and directed by renowned Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar (and opening next Friday), is a Saint Laurent Production, I decided to research the subject at hand!

I discovered that Yves Saint Laurant Rive Gauche was founded in 1962 by Yves Saint Laurent and his life and business partner, Pierre Bergé. In 2008, the company’s name was changed to Saint Laurent by Bergé and head designer Hedi Slimane following Saint Laurent’s passing. Therefore, Saint Laurent and YSL are essentially the same entity – the old YSL label lingers under the new banner in such forms as, the official website, and @ysl, their Instagram handle.

Strange Way of LIfe

Anthony Vaccarello took over the role of creative director after Bergé died in 2017. One of his extracurricular activities was to found Saint Laurent Productions. This film production company joins the legion of other boutique filmmaking ventures from ultra-successful companies such as Netflix, Amazon, and Apple. The problem is that Vaccarello’s presence is all over Almodovar’s movie, so much so that the main focus of this short film isn’t the love story between two lonely ex-cowboys, Sheriff Jake (Ethan Hawke) and Silva (Pedro Pascal), who reunite after 25 years in the Old West, but Vaccarello’s latest haute couture cowboy-inspired collection. From Jake’s fetishistic underwear to the purposefully anachronistic and carefully positioned Georgia O’Keefe paintings to the male models that populate numerous scenes, everything and everybody is gorgeous! And as the movie progressed, I realized that “Strange Way of Life” bears the stamp of Saint Laurent more than the genius of Almodóvar.

This is especially noticeable in a flashback sequence where the young Jake and Silva (played by male models Jason Fernández and José Condessa ) cavort with a bunch of (female) whores. However, after they shoot holes in some giant wine casques and start to drink the flowing vino, they begin to kiss and fool around with one another and forget about the girls. It reminded me of the scene in Almodóvar’s “Law of Desire” (1986), where Carmen Maura walks home early in the morning. A crew is cleaning the street, and having begged them to turn their hose on her, she groans with pleasure. For me, it’s the classic Almodóvar moment. When the boys opened their mouths in unison, I thought I would relive that experience, but it never quite materialized.

Strange Way of Life

Hawke and Pascal are both excellent, in and out of bed, and they are the reason enough to see this. Pascal, who has the more sensitive role (in addition to a few suggestions about his favored sexual position), is incredibly moving. He has the movie’s parting line, and it’s beautiful. If only Almodóvar could have trusted himself more, letting the beauty come from inside, not from the stores lining Avenue Montagne.

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STRANGE WAY OF LIFE will stream on Max at Intervals throughout 2024.

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