West Side Story
“West Side Story is, I believe, Spielberg’s finest film in 20 years, and a new milestone in the career of one of our greatest living directors. A little less than a month before his 75th birthday, he has delivered a relentlessly dazzling, swoonily beautiful reworking of the 1957 Manhattan-set musical by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, which feels just as definitive and indestructible as the previous screen adaptation, directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins.” (The Telegraph)
The iconic 1961 film nabbed 10 of its 11 Oscar nominations. Yet, while capturing Jerome Robbins’ majestic choreography from the original 1957 Broadway staging as well as the soaring music of Leonard Bernstein and sparkling lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, it remains problematic in part for its casting of non-Latinx actors, especially Natalie Wood (dubbed) as the Puerto Rican Maria and George Chakiris as Bernardo, while requiring the actual Puerto Rican actress Rita Moreno (who nabbed Best Supporting Actress as Anita) to darken her skin.
Spielberg, working with book writer Tony Kushner, has fashioned something new that takes the best of the musical (especially its stage version with book by Cornell alum Arthur Laurents ’37) and finally gives authenticity to the Puerto Rican roles.
“Rather than follow in its 1961 forerunner’s gravity-defying steps, Spielberg and his screenwriter Tony Kushner have stripped down its story of feuding gangs and yearning lovers to its parts, then rebuilt it with new colour and dynamics drawn from New York social history…. The result is miraculous: a film which fuses the colour and euphoria of a Golden Age movie musical with the teeming, dirty-fingernailed grandeur of a classic American immigrant epic.” (The Telegraph)
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