Man on horseback

21 May 2009


José Martinez Rioboó
Third and last of the three
photographs from the book I found over Christmas in a carmen house in the barrio Realejo-San Matías, the old Jewish quarter at the foot of the Alhambra.

I think I remember this as taken in Almería – it might be Granada, east, in the mountains. It brings me forcefully back to the backcountry trails  in Ojai valley, in California, where I rode horseback at 13 – the burnt crests of the hills, the boulders. Going over the ridge. Hobbling horses to graze in pasture while you set up camp & got the water boiling.

The railroad bridge & the white suit remind you that it was taken in the early 1900s, and also why spaghetti westerns were later filmed out here – essentially replicating what this photograph captures as contemporary.


I read today an A.V. Club interview with Jim Jarmusch, who just finished his most recent film in Spain, of all places. (His fractured western, Dead Man, was one of my birthday presents this March, & it’s the only American movie I have here). And not just in Spain, but Andalucía:

I’ve always been madly in love with the city of Seville, and always wanted to shoot something there. The place is incredibly magical and visual, and has a lot of Moorish influence in its architecture. It’s where all that tilework comes from in Spain. There are balconies everywhere that are tiled underneath just for the visual pleasure of someone walking in the street. The streets are very narrow, and it has that weird tower of gold that we have in the film, which was colonial Spain’s warehouse of gold. It doesn’t even have doors; you had to get in by pulling a sailing ship up alongside it, and enter way above the line of the ground. It’s just a really amazing place, sort of central to Andalusian culture, flamenco culture. And then the south of Spain, where we shot outside of Almería, is where a lot of the spaghetti Westerns were shot. So the landscape is oddly familiar to me, even sort of semi-consciously, from biblical Hollywood epics that were shot there, and all the Italian Westerns that were shot there. So those things were drawing me. Spain entered the film and then kept pulling on me, even though the story could have been set in South America, or in Turkey or Mexico.

The tower of gold he mentions is the Torre del Oro, on the river Guadalquivir; there is also a Torre de la Plata (tower of silver), where the other precious metal from the conquest of the Americas was offloaded & stored.

Of course, nobody in Jaén would say something like this about Sevilla, because that would just encourage the sevillanos, & they’re already puffed up enough about their city as it is.

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