West Side Story

West Side Story
Original title:West Side Story
Director:Steven Spielberg
Running time:156 minutes
Release date:10 december 2021
Young Tony falls in love at first sight when he spots Maria at a high school dance in 1957 New York. Their budding romance helps fuel the fire between the Jets and the Sharks, two rival gangs vying for control of the streets.

Mulder's Review

A dilapidated New York neighborhood, two gangs fighting each other, an impossible love story inspired by William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, we all know the music but Steven Spielberg manages to create a surprise and deliver one of his best films to date with this very inspired remake of West Side Story. This musical created in 1957 by Jerome Robbins with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a story by Arthur Laurents revisits the play by William Shakespeare and was already adapted to the cinema in 1961 by the unforgettable film by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins with the main roles of Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris. The film won ten Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Editing and Best Supporting Actress (Rita Moreno). It took fifty years to bring this film back into fashion by offering not just a simple shot-for-shot remake but an updated version with one of today's greatest directors Steven Spielberg at the helm.

While some may think that this is Steven Spielberg's first foray into musicals, it is worth revisiting the excellent opening musical scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984). This perfectly choreographed scene seemed to be a real tribute to the great musicals and showed that this gifted and passionate film director would sooner or later make his contribution.

 After having approached different genres of film that it is the adventure film (saga Indiana Jones (1981-2008), War Horse (2011)), the science fiction film (Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), e. T the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Jurassic Park (1993) but also the comedy (The terminal (2004)), the historical film (Amistad (1997), Munich (2005), Schindler's List (1993)), the animation film and the spy film. Far from being content to play the easy card, Steven Spielberg has established himself as a visionary director since his first film Duel (1971). A true creator of the blockbuster with his film Jaws (1975), Steven Spielberg was able to build a virtually perfect filmography that was as original as it was unforgettable. At a time when the issue of guns and integration is at the center of the debate in the United States, West Side story proves to be a film perfectly in tune with our current society.

The challenge is even greater with West Side Story because the story is known by many generations of viewers and the songs of this musical. It was therefore necessary to revisit not only this one but also to take into account the film by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins of which Steven Spielberg is a great fan. The presence in the cast of Rita Moreno (interpreter of Anita and then here of Valentina) is therefore not a coincidence. Far from proposing a version in our current society, the story of this new adaptation takes the spectators back to 1957 in the Upper West Side and from the first minutes we enter directly into the action with an anthological scene presenting the two gangs and their confrontation. 

We discover Tony (Ansel Elgort) who is one of the founding members of the Jets (a gang of Irish and Polish) and who had to spend a year of his life in prison because he could not control his strength and his violent acts towards another young person of this district during a clash of clans. Maria (Rachel Zegler) is the younger sister of Bernardo (David Alvarez), the leader of the Sharks (Puerto Rican immigrants). Their meeting at a dance will seal their relationship forever and lead to an outbreak of violence in their neighborhood.  The new version of West Side Story is a miracle because Tony Kushner's screenplay finds the right approach and manages to make us forget or even surpass the original film. The dance numbers, the different songs are perfectly brought and the main characters are treated with great care to give them a real thickness. The undeniable success of this film lies in the solid link between the screenwriter Tony Kushner who has already collaborated with Steven Spielberg as a screenwriter on Munich (2005), Lincoln (2012) and soon The Fabelmans and the desire of this director to give birth to a musical that pays tribute to a whole part of American cinema. 

By taking care of the film's photography as much as the way to propose the best possible shots, West Side story turns out to be a real intense cinematographic experience that celebrates the strength of cinema and reminds us how loving is the most beautiful thing that makes us human despite our imperfections. The duo of Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler works wonderfully and the fact of finding Rita Moreno in an important role. To succeed in a musical nowadays would almost be an impossible challenge as this genre seems outdated and intended for a certain audience.  However Steven Spielberg finds the epic breath of the great Hollywood films and we leave this film with tears in our eyes with the desire to find all this magic of the cinema that we love so much. 

West Side Story
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Screenplay by Tony Kushner
Based on West Side Story by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins
Produced by Steven Spielberg, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Kevin McCollum
Starring Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Rita Moreno, Rachel Zegler
Cinematography: Janusz KamiƄski
Edited by Michael Kahn, Sarah Broshar
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Production companies: Amblin Entertainment, TSG Entertainment
Distributed by : 20th Century Studios
Release date : November 29, 2021 (Jazz at Lincoln Center), December 8, 2021 (France), December 10, 2021 (United States)
Running time : 156 minutes

Seen on December 9, 2021 at Gaumont Disney Village, IMAX Room 11 seat E19

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