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NYFF 2023: Day 1

Strange Way of Life

What do you say when you don’t much care for the new work of someone who you admire more than all the others? This was my thought while watching Pedro Almodóvar’s new short film, Strange Way of Life, at Alice Tully Hall on a snoozy Saturday (my first screening of this year’s festival). The screening was only 31 minutes long and yet people kept filing in throughout. A woman stood at the end of our row at approximately halfway through, exasperated that her seat had been “taken.” If you attend a film festival and arrive late and your seat is taken, I have little sympathy for you. You’re not at the local AMC. But I digress. Unfortunately, this is the first Almodóvar film that I didn’t connect to much as a viewer (a thought that sends daggers into my heart as I would happily Boxing Helena myself at a chance to work with him, my film idol), but at the same time, I guess I should be grateful, because I love almost all his films so I was bound to not connect to one at some point. The film is funny, and also melodramatic, but the pain and desire feel too fleeting. After hearing what transpired in the story after the film was over, according to the director at a Q and A after the film (where, of course, I completely lost my shit over seeing my favorite director in person for the first time ever), one wished that we could get a whole feature instead of this short. There was more here, but it was truncated, and the feeling is omnipresent in the film. The fleeting moments of pain and eroticism feel as if they aren’t allowed to breathe within the short format here, something that the director is exquisite at forcing the viewer to wrestle with when given more time with a set of characters, and one that his previous short, The Human Voice, did not suffer from in the short format. I will never forget the ending of Almodóvar’s earlier feature, Broken Embraces, and that lingering shot at the end, for the rest of my life. My heart melts in pain at even the thought of that cinematic moment. Unfortunately, for me, the same feelings did not occur in this one. I wish they had here, but I am endlessly thankful for my hero and his work. Viva Pedro!

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