Winner of 10 Oscars, this adaptation of a Broadway musical could have been a complete disaster considering the latest screen adaptations of broadway musicals like Rent. West Side Story has been a succes on the stage and on the screen. Despite its overdramatic themes and conclusion, its story is more than worth the look. The musical parts bring the best of film.
The "mise en scene" is steady and strongly achieved by the sometimes over sometimes underapreciated Robert Wise (The Set-Up, The Day The Earth Stood Still) and the choreographies by Jerome Robbins are just perfect. Well, it may be one of the things that can tickle, the way the film feels that it is perfect. I tend to like films that are perfect in their imperfections. West Side Story seems like the film has been shot 300 times and the fury and the passion of the moment and of the performances just not feel as real as they really are. Sometimes flaws are a plus, and here, in this very Hollywood feature film it just feels too right. Well, so right it's wrong.
Don't get me wrong, I am a defender of Robert Wise's films and I think that West Side Story stands just where it deserves to stand in the History of Cinema it's just that if it was a film from the 1950's it would have had a better time table, but in the same year a little French film Une femme est une femme, a little musical, directed by a young sensation named Jean-Luc Godard feels fresher today by its rawness and human feelings of its crude colors and its revolutionned filmmaking techniques.
West Side Story is a near masterpiece achievement in filmmaking that every cinephile out there especially musicals and/or Broadway entusiast should have seen!