Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story is here at last. The obvious question it raises is just why such a well-regarded film needs a remake – and the answer quickly becomes clear. Robert Wise’s 1961 adaptation of the 1957 stage musical is indeed a classic, but this new version comes from and enters a different America, one in which its message, José argues, is more urgently needed but faces a more difficult challenge to be heard. And on top of that, it’s just a really good film.
We discuss the film’s use of colour and lighting, the brutality of the violence and believability of the gangs and particularly Riff, the Jets’ leader, the purpose and effects of having a lot of dialogue spoken in entirely unsubtitled Spanish, and much more. The songs are timeless, the romance heartfelt, the imagery beautiful. West Side Story is a great success.
Corrections and clarifications: José would like to apologise for attributing West Side Story‘s original choreography to George Balanchine, when it was in fact created by Jerome Robbins. José has been disciplined and promises that it will not happen again.