West Side Story Opiniones

With steven Spielberg’s remake virtually out, the mil novecientos sesenta y uno original still feels thrillingly contemporary, ns tough act to follow


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West junto a Story: never had actually bodies in moverse been provided to shape and dictate un film’s own índice quite prefer this. Photograph: flor Artists/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock
West junto a Story: never had bodies in moverse been supplied to shape and dictate a film’s own índice quite like this. Photograph: flor Artists/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

It’s the opening credits that execute it appropriate away. Following three eerie whistles gastos generales a black screen, West side Story explodes into a full screen of poster-paint color – shifting representar orange to neto to magenta to royal azul – as Leonard Bernstein’s four-minute overture brassily clatters right into action. Gastos generales the colour, un stark architecture flourish: seemingly arbitrarily brigades of parallel erigir black lines, just coalescing at ns overture’s fin into ns tip of Manhattan, viewed desde the air, cuing ns vertiginous bird’s-eye montage of nuevo York ciudad in motion. The chipper yet chillingly disembodied horn returns; by the time we ultimately see a humano face, 6 coolly riveting minutes has actually passed.

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This totality title sequence – from the graphics to los aerial photography – was visualised by Saul Bass, the distinctive graphics designer then favoured by such aggressive stylists as alfred Hitchcock y Otto Preminger. That still seems, perhaps even an ext than noþeles that complies with in West side Story, sleekly y breath-catchingly modern: uno coup of high-quality minimalism at ns outset of un splashy Hollywood production. That was no accident: in 1961, unido Artists set fuera for the film to be something bracing and new in ns movie musical, an sector staple the was looking increasingly fuera de of action with a youth culture turning towards rock’n’roll.

The previous two years had actually been turbulent ones for the genre. In 1958, South pacífico may have topped los annual box office while Gigi swept the Oscars, but since then, los only Hollywood song-and-dance films to prove even mild hits had been boy comedies, Disney cartoons or Elvis presley vehicles. Wishes were high because that West junto a Story to put ns gloss trasero on to los prestige música – the mil novecientos cincuenta y siete Broadway música had been a hit con critics and audiences alike – however the studio knew ns usual style of overstuffed coloración spectacle wouldn’t reduced it. The film had to be as propulsively dance-oriented as ns stage show, however expansive and kinetic as cinema. It had to honour the classically romantic roots of its source – this was un riff ~ above Romeo and Juliet, after all – while saying Something significant about contemporary youth and urban society. It had actually to it is in family-friendly yet appealing to tearaway teens; it had to court Oscar voters y high-culture movie critics alike.

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It was, in effect, strategised and focus-grouped to within an customs of that life, debajo to los unusual deteriorate made on los directorial front. Genius choreographer Jerome Robbins, who work had actually been so integral to the stage show’s success, was hired to direct the musical sequences, regardless of having zero film experience. Market journeyman Robert way was enlisted for ns straight dramatic scenes, not in spite of his lack of musical experience but because of that: best known for stolid black-and-white tv series on stern topics (he had actually recently been Oscar-nominated for the grim death-row biopic identificación Want come Live!), he was intended to carry some grownup gravitas to los exercise. Not that los producers were over naked populism as soon as casting the leads: even if it is or no there’s any kind of truth to los enduring rumour the Elvis presley was approached come be the film’s Tony, teen-idol potential take it precedence over musical ability: 23-year-olds Natalie Wood y Richard Beymer no sing un note in ns film, yet couldn’t have actually lip-synched an ext prettily.

All of which provides West página Story sound like a desperately over-calculated, even pessimistic exercise. Yet as it plays out, representar that Saul bass aesthetic masterstroke onwards, the film remains un blinder: in which method checking turn off each the those aforementioned, contradictory boxes, the formally electric, musically alive y emotionally pummelling, even as its called leads trade in borrowed feeling. West side Story isn’t unflawed, in ways the donar wasn’t either: that overwriting of Shakespeare to loan proceedings at the very least half a happy ending, con Maria alive and distraught, can’t quite touch the frenzied melodrama the Romeo and Juliet’s dual-death fiasco, and there’s alguna getting round the fact that its sweet, doe-eyed leads space given uno lesson in musical magnetism every time their older counterparts Rita Moreno y George Chakiris are permitted to burn up los frame. (That West side Story won diez Oscars, including two for Moreno y Chakiris, when Wood and Beymer no nominated was un harsh way to stress ns point.)


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Natalie hardwood in West side Story. Photograph: Allstar/United ArtistsAnd yet sesenta years on, West junto a Story is bigger, bolder y braver than any type of of its shortcomings. Robbins’s cinematic inexperience may have actually sent los production behind schedule y over budget, leading to his eventual eliminación dismissal, but he to be worth every excess day y penny: from Astaire and Rogers and Gene Kelly, Hollywood was well-schooled in filming dance, yet never had bodies in ejercicio been offered to shape and dictate un film’s own índice quite favor this: take the ultra-stripped Cool number, filmed greatly in long, roomy lejos shots, in i m sorry every advertise limb and snapping finger feels like an editor’s cut. Or ns cantankerous chaos that America, los Latin characters’ pent-up exasperation spilling in uno brash synthesis of swirling, confrontational choreo and the jangly, switching rhythms of Bernstein’s score, perfectly defined by Moreno: “Then follow me comes Leonard Bernstein with his 5/4 time, his 6/8 time, his 25/6 time. It was just crazy. That very an overwhelming to dance to that kind of music, due to the fact that it doesn’t make dancer sense.” In the moment, the course, that does.

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Six decades on, then, West side Story still feels agile and athletic and crisply, fizzily modern, elegantly poised in reparado trousers between los past of ns Hollywood musical and its future, yet never quite gone beyond or outdated on one of two people side. In ns matter of weeks, fine be may be to judge the wisdom of stephen Spielberg and playwright Tony Kushner making your own nuevo version of los musical, though i confess to some sight-unseen scepticism. A remake might right not correct of casting or writing in los first film: in particular, expectations room high for the Colombian americano teen Rachel Zegler to hew closer to los show’s vision of the romantically overwhelmed y culturally conflicted Maria than Wood ever could. However I’m curious to watch how ns film, in retaining the 1950s gangland setup that in ns original was so sparsely y exhilaratingly contemporary, deserve to avoid feeling like uno nostalgia item, uno painstakingly recreated duration piece. Meanwhile, that predecessor hangs on to ns shock of los new, los urgency of ns now, the heated flush of youth. Also after 60 years have actually passed, that’s un hard act come follow.


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