Review: Steven Spielberg’s masterful West Side Story


Steven Spielberg’s masterful West Side Story

One day many days ago, listening to Rear Window, the brilliant program that has been cinematically illuminating the Gorina & Cía clan for 35 years from Catalunya Radio, I was left between surprised and indignant when they said that Spielberg preparing a remake of West Side Story. It wasn’t me alone, we all shouted to the sky, we all doubted the suitability and even more the success of the project. doWhy focus again on a masterpiece of cinema, on an icon and a benchmark that marked an era? It was not necessary, nor did we want to because there are films that we know cannot be surpassed and the list is immense and among them this one that he directed in 1961 Robert Wise and also the eminent choreographer Jerome Robins, and who were to star in the five main roles, the delicious Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, the explosive Rita Moreno and the iconic Russ Tamblyn Y George Chakiris.

West Side Story

I’ll say it at the beginning and that’s how I take off the euphoria and restlessness that this remake has left me. I liked the West Side Story directed by Steven Spielberg more than the original 1961 version, although this forceful statement must be qualified and argued, but in no case is it a provocation, it is something undeniable, from my point of view, obviously, and it is because Spielberg has improved every aspect but one of the original. The 2021 version is a formidable Tony Kusher adaptation, closer to the Broadway original than the later adaptation by the film version., greatly enhancing the story and I would say bringing it closer to the Shakespearean origins, dramatically influencing the characters and the dramatic situations and problems of race and immigration, so unfortunately in force again throughout the privileged first world.

As also happens in the obnoxiously sugary “I Feel Pretty” now located in the store where the Puerto Ricans do the nightly cleaning and that serves as a necessary distance after the phenomenal concertante “Tonight” and the subsequent and capital fight (The Rumble) and before the tragic events break out in the confrontation between Anita and María, an operatic duo of high and inspired and dramatic tension (A Boy Like That/I Have a Love). Another brilliant and very different moment of planning and staging in the ’61 version is “Gee, Officer Krupke”.

Certainly this 2021 version, despite the good intentions of the prologue that already brilliantly catches you, does not reach the cinematographic perfection of the Wise and Robbins version in 1961, because although the camera dance above the rooftops of the neighborhood old where Lincoln Center is now, it’s very good, Jerome Robbins’ original choreography and planning has not been surpassed in this remake, in any of the dance numbers, this is the only point where the original stands unalterably above the current remake. The choreography of Justin Peck wants to offer other views and updates everything constantly paying homage to Robins, also risks as his own Spielberg, but he had it very difficult and he did not win. Compare the prologue, the dance in the gym or the exciting “cool” it can be harmful. I recommend that you do not


Ansel Elgort as Tony and Rachel Zegler as Maria in Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story © Niko Tavernise 2021 20th Century Studios

Where Spielberg’s bet clearly wins is the planning of the entire story and the brilliant filming, magnificently photographed, lit and designed, with much more believable characters. and where Puerto Ricans are all Latinos and North Americans are North Americans, where ages are respected and where it is not necessary to paint the characters to be darker and therefore more believably Latino. There is more truth and since it is not, or it is not convenient to compare scenes or musical numbers from one to the other, I have believed much more the current story of Spielberg than Wise.

It is not a denunciation film but it is appreciated that the ambiguous character of Anybodys is now a Trans character and it is also appreciated that what could only be imagined of homoerotic relationships between some of the characters are now more than evidence and explain some reactions paramount of some character in the tragic end. Certainly we will not look for a denouncing cinema in this second version, but it is very good that the look is different and has been updated. The public to which it is intended or should be intended has already overcome many aspects and perhaps that is why this role of Valentina has also been created, which in a somewhat naive way if you will (this is still a musical) gives us background information and demands justice and dignity.

For me there is another definitive factor, which the vast majority of reviews or chronicles that I have read do not mention, and that is that the actors and actresses of 2021 are the ones who sing while in the 61 version none of the voices we heard singing were those of the actors and actresses we see, alone Rita Moreno Y Chakiris at times and that has always seemed unacceptable to me. Now it’s them and them and they do it very well under an inspired Gustavo Dudamel who directs the score with great sensitivity, brilliance and desired spectacularity. Who has been charged, which has also happened, is for problems beyond the strictly musical.

The 2021 film is full of small and large tributes to the 1961 film, starting with the participation of Rita Moreno into an invented hottie character, Valentina, which allows her to tackle one of the most inspired melodies in the inspired score, the “Somewhere”, originally sung by the character of Consuelo who at her Broadway premiere (1957) was the later well-known light soprano Reri Grist before making the leap to the operatic world and that in this version of 2021 Rita Moreno He practically whispers with what remains of his voice at 90 years old, but there is no doubt that the moment is exciting, although cinematographically it may be somewhat flat. It would have been nice if Spielberg, taking advantage of the fact that the main performers of the ’61 version are alive, except for poor Natalie Wood, would have given all of them a little intervention to finish doing the honors to that masterpiece, but there are other tributes.

Natalie Wood was as Puerto Rican as I was Scandinavian, and despite being a delicious Maria, Rachel Zegler’s charm is one of the film’s triumphs. In the Spielberg balcony scene makes us forget the iconic Wood/Beymer icon between the stairs, thanks to a brilliant filming and above all to an intoxicating photogenicity of the actress.

Beat Richard Beymer It is true that it was not difficult at all, but it was a challenge for any young boy who had to play Tony precisely to make us forget that molasses. Ansel Elgort He gives a sensitive performance, but is much more believable in the violent scenes. The role is not the most grateful, but it comes out with a note.

Ariana DeBose she doesn’t make us forget Rita Moreno but she is magnificent and when she sings and dances she imposes herself with great authority. I loved it.

David Alvarez is Bernardo, much more believable as a fearsome leader of the Sharks, than the excessively profiled and preposterous Chakiris. While Mike Faist does not have the attraction Russ Tamblyn (perhaps the ideal Tony) but he gives a lot of credibility and also erotic masculinity to the role.

Y Spielberg who knows how to wrap all his products very well, he has done it with perfection, means and a lot of love, taking advantage of current filming resources and also current tastes. He has not wanted to compete with a work of art that remains unchanged, and he has done well to make his own, and his is beautiful, valid and emotional.

If you are not going to permanently look for the differences between one and the other, and if you do, I am sure that it will excite you and you may even leave saying like me that this one is better.

Do not miss it. the great ones bernstein and the recently disappeared Sondheim they deserve it, all the equipment that has made it possible too, and the cinema in a large room and a gigantic screen, even if it smells like criminal popcorn, too. Joaquim Hernandez Puig

Posted on January 16 in in fernem land.

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