A trailer is only a trailer, but it appears as if Steven Spielberg‘s West Side Story is going to be “more” than Robert Wise‘s 1961 Oscar-winning version — more vivid, more ethnically authentic, more alive, more fully felt, angrier, cooler, artier, more intense, more multi-shaded, less “Hollywood”-ized.
If the original Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim-Arthur Laurents stage musical hadn’t opened at the Winter Garden in ’57, if Wise’s film hadn’t won all those Oscars four years later, if there hadn’t been so many revivals and re-interpretations over the years…if Spielberg’s film was a brand spanking new period musical, all pink and damp and fresh out of the nursery, it would be a huge wham-bammer. The Gold Derby whores would be calling it the presumptive Best Picture winner. But it’s not that.
West Side Story is an old chestnut that reflects a world that no longer exists…a capturing of urban racial tensions among poor Irish and Italians vs. poor Puerto Ricans during the mid-Eisenhower era, in a once-grubby part of Manhattan…it’s the umpteenth version of a musical that’s nearly 65 years old, and there’s just no getting around that.
The only shot I don’t like is the overhead view of the Jets and Sharks approaching each other with intense shadows merging in front of them — that’s Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski pushing the boundaries.