I like a good view. I’d venture a long way for a special one. Which is what I did to find this particular view of Monument Valley. If I was a list man I’d probably put it top of my all-time favourite views. The reason I’m not a list man is because my views (pun intended) change with each passing year. The eighteen year-old me for instance would have spat Kronenbourg 1664 all over any suggestion of liking a view with such strong Western connections because way back then I considered Westerns the work of the devil.
From what I could see they were plagued by corny stereotypes and barely half-truths. There appeared no other reason for a Western than to ruin Sunday afternoon television for which they appeared to eternally appear upon. Whether it be the painstakingly dull TV series Bonanza or a film where some maverick bloke who looked old enough to be your granddad, fell in love with a woman who could have been his daughter and decided to stick around, become sheriff and bring the bad guys to justice (and if a few Indians get taught a valuable lesson by the white man in between then even better). Westerns were only marginally less detestable than musicals.
As I’ve discovered with so many things in life, it turns out I just wasn’t looking in the right places because once I started searching properly I developed a serious Western addiction.
My Damascene conversion occurred while watching the midnight showing of Unforgiven in a near deserted Harlow cinemaplex. I’d only ventured inside because the thought of returning home seemed even worse than sitting through a film about ageing cowboys. In that cinema, while more than a little intoxicated by booze, I sobered up to the majesty of the Western. Within two years I’d seen close to 100 films from the genre and signed myself up for a film studies course, purely because a large chunk of the module focused upon Westerns.
Which brings me – or brought me – to Monument Valley, a location permanently associated with the great films of director John Ford. This iconic setting stands on the border of Arizona and Utah, and if approached from the east along Highway 163 it appears almost out of the blue as you arch over a gentle curve in the landscape. What struck me the most, even more than the natural beauty of the place, was the sheer isolation. I was able to take copious amounts of pictures for minutes without seeing another vehicle, including the obligatory one lying on the tarmac to get what I hoped was the perfect road trip shot. Despite its legend, Monument Valley appeared not to be a road well-travelled. Perhaps not surprising when you consider that trying to find it involves several hours behind the wheel. Good job it was the best view in the world. For this week at least.