Strange Way of Life: Is Bitter Creek an Actual Town?

Pedro Almodóvar’s Western short film ‘Strange Way of Life’ unfolds in the cowboy town of Bitter Creek. Silva, the ex-lover of the town’s sheriff Jake, crosses a desert and arrives in the place with the ulterior motive of convincing the lawman to spare his son, who is accused of being a murderer. Jake and Silva have to hide their feelings for one another and their complicated companionship from the townsfolk, which indicates that Bitter Creek is not progressive enough to accept same-sex relationships. Although such places do exist in reality, the sheriff’s town is not one of them!

The Creation of Bitter Creek

Bitter Creek is a creation of Pedro Almodóvar, who wrote ‘Strange Way of Life.’ Such a town doesn’t exist in the American South or north of Mexico as the short film suggests. The Spanish auteur conceived the narrative after getting inspired by several Westerns that range from Howard Hawks’ ‘El Dorado’ to Sam Peckinpah’s ‘The Wild Bunch.’ The intention behind making the short movie was to dive into a queer relationship that’s not explored extensively in the genre, except for ‘Brokeback Mountain.’ Thus, he created Bitter Creek in a way that it resembles the towns we see in countless Westerns released decades ago.

Almodóvar even shot the short at the same place where Sergio Leone filmed Clint Eastwood’s ‘A Fistful of Dollars,’ ‘For a Few Dollars More,’ and ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,’ which are widely considered three of the greatest Westerns of all time. The sets are located in the Tabernas Desert in the province of Almería in Spain, which doubles for Bitter Creek in the short film. “I think it looks better than before because now you see that set is old. You can feel the passage of time. It is very dusty. So yes, we shot with the ghost of Clint Eastwood in the middle of us,” the Spanish filmmaker told Vanity Fair about shooting in the place.

Even though Bitter Creek is fictional, it is not difficult to find similar towns in the American South with homophobia still prevalent. According to a report by The New York Times, several anti-LGBT laws are prominent in states such as Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama. The concerns Jake and Silva have while living in Bitter Creek as two men with a same-sex relationship may not be drastically different from the worries that unsettle queer people who have been living in these states. Therefore, Bitter Creek represents towns in the country where people belonging to the LGBTQ+ have to hide themselves to lead a peaceful life.

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