West Side Story (1961)

Not Rated   |    |  Crime, Drama, Musical


West Side Story (1961) Poster

Two youngsters from rival New York City gangs fall in love, but tensions between their respective friends build toward tragedy.


7.6/10
88,318

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  • "West Side Story," Director Jerome Robbins and Natalie Wood. 1961/UA
  • West Side Story (1961)
  • Linwood G. Dunn in West Side Story (1961)
  • Rita Moreno in West Side Story (1961)
  • Rita Moreno and George Chakiris at an event for West Side Story (1961)
  • Natalie Wood and Robert Wise in West Side Story (1961)

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5 February 2005 | Tony Dummett
9
| An Uncompromisingly Great film
Although I think I've seen just about every musical there is from the forties to the seventies, I'd never seen West Side Story until last night. An amazing omission on my part, as having seen it, I just think it's simply wonderful.

I bought the DVD "on spec" in a CD/DVD exchange store in Sydney for $10. I've had it in my hand a couple of times before but have always put it back on the shelf. This time I went through with the purchase and am now wondering what could have come over me, not buying it before.

Those here who have said you really need to watch it on the Big Screen are absolutely right. In my case I watched it using a video projector throwing the image, big, bright and beautiful, onto a 12 foot screen. The photography used the wide screen format uncompromisingly. There was no caution here to frame the action for possible television cropping, or even much consideration given to a 2.35:1 "Cinemascope" presentation. Super Panavision's aspect ratio is not as wide as Cinemascope's 2.35:1, and every square inch of screen space was used for one or another important element of composition.

Bernstein's music is a tour de force. Having watched On The Town only a few days back, it was interesting to contrast the two musicals. On The town is, of course, 15 years or so older than West side Story, but a comparison between the two scores is chalk and cheese. You could tell that Bernstein was holding himself back in On The Town. It wasn't his project. The numbers were almost self-censored. But West side Story was his baby, and it shows.

The sheer brilliance of the music, the enchanting daring of it, its raucous atonality coupled with sweetness of melody are awesomely impressive, as show-stopper after show-stopper is thrown onto the screen to continually up the amazement quotient, time after time.

I played West Side Story loud, very loud. The surround sound knocked my socks off from the opening aerial ambiance of Manhattan streets to the orchestrations themselves. I remember Bernstein in the documentary about the concert version of West Side Story saying, aside to the camera, after "Cool, Boy" was recorded, "You know, this is pretty good..." One of the great understatements, even if coming from the music's creator.

See this film. Play it loud. Watch it on a big screen if you can. If you do you may, like I did, sit there thrilled, swinging your head from one side of the Super Panavision screen to the other, trying to take in the overwhelming avalanche coming at your eyes, your ears and your heart. It was an almost perfect transfer from film to DVD: color, sharpness, depth.

It's been a long while since I've watched a film with a silly grin on my face right through, sometimes gasping at the sheer knock-out brilliance of what film-making can be at its best. West Side Story was one of those times.

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Genres

Crime | Drama | Musical | Romance

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