It's too bad that younger generations of viewers of WEST SIDE STORY, when viewing the scenes of superb ensemble choreography will at once think of certain fashionable brands of chinos. In our society, where nothing is sacred, it's a shame that our most elevated moments of artistic achievement end up being shanghaid for commercial exploitation.
That aside, WEST SIDE STORY has it all. A love story with a timeless and universal appeal. A pulsating energy from beginning to end. A fantastic libretto and Leonard Bernstein's outstanding score, with performances to match. Brilliant cinematography that captures the flavour of NYC circa 1960 with its decaying neighbourhoods and smoldering juvenile gang tension. It really is a climax to such worthy precursors as "The Blackboard Jungle" of 1955.
WEST SIDE STORY also features some fine acting performances, although curiously not from the leads. The Supporting Oscars bestowed on Rita Moreno and George Chakiris were well deserved as it was they who supplied the Latino passion in spades. Natalie Wood looks gorgeous as usual but uses her eyes rather than her body to express her emotions, which is not very Puerto Rican at all. Richard Beymer is rather wooden and there is a lack of chemistry between him and Natalie. Not surprising, considering that Ms Wood was not pleased with his selection to play opposite her and subsequently gave him the cold shoulder throughout the production.
What really energates WEST SIDE STORY is the brilliant choreography of Jerome Robbins. From the long opening gang ballet scene to it's tragic but inevitable ending, this film never lags. Much more than a Musical, this masterpiece satisfies all the senses and it remains unsurpassed in its achievement.