Cowboy, Painter and Photographer

As a child my first impression of English films was seeing Mackenna’s Gold, a big budget western film, where cowboys went looking for the mountain of gold and got corrupted and died by its lure. I was fascinated by Cowboys, read cowboy comics, tied a handkerchief around my neck galloped around my house waiting to lasso a wild horse. Since I used to live in a flat in Bombay, I could only lasso, the carpet that was rolled and kept under our divan, which would be spread out when visitors came in the evening. How did the image of the cowboy and westerns come to dominate world cinema, how did this uniquely American invention become one of the great cultural exports of America?

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Yes to Establishing Shots,
No to Visual Cliché’s

Isn’t the Eiffel Tower symbolic of the ever-romantic Paris? Or is the clock tower of Westminster, the only symbol of London and British sophistication? In Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, The Statue of Liberty in New York is shown as a beacon of welcoming immigrants into the Unites States of America.

How many times in American films have you seen the typical opening shot of an automobile crossing a bridge and then the car coming to a halt, in a suburban neighbourhood and the protagonist coming out of the car and getting into the house? The Great American obsession for the automobiles and their cities results in shots that have become visual clichés. The establishing long shots in films are not just images representing a location; they also set the mood of the film. Some shots rise above the ordinary, like the Brooklyn Bridge and the two lovers seated below in Woody Allen’s Manhattan – a truly classic Long shot.

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