This past Friday night, and this past Saturday afternoon, the Somerville Theatre, in Somerville, MA, played the 70mm film of the 1961 movie version of West Side Story, as part of this theatre's annual 70mm Film Festival. What a beautiful film it was. This was a new print of the 70mm film version of West Side Story, that had not only been re-mastered, cleaned up, re-printed, and restored to its former color and glory, but had a sound track that was punchy and in one's face, as it's supposed to be. I attended both screenings of West Side Story with friends, and we all had lots of fun!
Since the Somerville Theatre is one of the only two movie theatres in our area that still has a balcony (The other movie theatre in our area with a balcony is the Brattle Theatre, in Cambridge, MA), we sat up on the balcony to watch West Side Story, which made the film even more fascinating to watch. The 70mm version was especially revealing, making the various expressions and movements of the various characters in West Side Story even more noticeable. All of the characters, from the warring Jets and Sharks to the romancing Tony and Maria, seemed to move much more fluidly, and in a much wider, more open space. The beautifully choreographed dancing by the late Jerome Robbins seemed even more brilliant and intense, as did the already intensely brilliant Leonard Bernstein musical score. The backdrop, which was created by seamlessly combining on-location scenes and sets together seemed more expansive, and one could see all of everything.
The expressions of the various characters in West Side Story were more noticeable, and the warring Jets and Sharks, and their girls, looked much tougher. So did Lt. Schrank, Ofcr. Krupke. Glad-Hand, the social worker, and Doc, the Candy Store owner, who tried, to no avail, to steer the Jets, the Sharks and their girls in a better direction, despite their sadness at not being able to help the gangs, looked tougher, all as a result of the fighting for survival in an impoverished environment.
The various emotions--exuberance, playfulness, affection, bravado and braggadocio, cockiness, arrogance, hatred, love and romance, sadness, violence, and the resulting deaths were all indicated in beautifully-choreographed dance, which, imho, could never, or will never be surpassed today. The various emotions in West Side Story seemed more intense. Various scenes, such as the playground skirmishes between the Jets and Sharks, the Dance at the Gym, the pre-Rumble War Council between the Jets and the Sharks at Doc's Candy Store, the pre-Rumble Ensemble, the Rumble itself, and the Cool scenes appeared very intensified in the 70mm version of the 1961 film West Side Story, as did the the roughing up and near-rape of Anita (who'd come to help protect Tony from Chino by warning him that Chino was gunning for him and was out to kill him), but was insulted and by the Jets at the Candy Store were also more intensified, as did Doc's anger at the Jets for what they'd done.
Tony, who'd pulled away from the Jets to find another way of life, and didn't know what he was looking for, also came off more romantic, and yet even more street-wise, and yet had a tougher look to him, as well. Anybodys, the Jets-wannabe, who finally does get accepted as an equal by the Jets, also seemed look tougher, and to be scrappier and more tomboy-ish than usual.
Anita and Maria, who were the closest of friends, although they were temperamentally at odds, and disagreed on many things, also had slightly tougher expressions.
All of the characters in West Side Story were fighting for survival, on their own merits, which clearly toughens people up, and can make them worse, or better, depending on who they are, or what they're upbringing is. Tony, despite the fact that he fell in love with Maria, was still a fighting street kid at heart, which is indicated by the fact that he stabbed and killed Bernardo in retaliation for Bernardo's having stabbed Riff to death. So Tony remained close to Riff--they were like brothers--very close.
All in all, seeing the film West Side Story, in a real movie theatre with the lights down low, especially in 70mm, is a real treat. My friends and I had lots of fun, and we were all glad to have gone to see this wonderful movie.
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