West Facet Story (1961) Film overview

By Kimberly Eckersley (Kent)


West Facet Story is a pumped-up jam of explosive ardour and fury at the established order. The 1961 movie took house many an Oscar that 12 months, together with Finest Image, and even with the Academy’s shaky historical past on the subject of progressivism, it’s a testomony to this movie’s technical brilliance that that alone virtually actually obtained it so far as it did. Reds, purples and yellows pop, a unbelievable use of Technicolor expertise that may by no means fairly be replicated, and simply take a look at these dances. Wow. Anita (Rita Moreno) particularly, although it's most positively a bunch effort.

Our protagonists Maria (Natalie Wooden) and Tony (Richard Beymer) share a romantic connection that though at first appears incredulous is constructed upon, deepened and realised in opposition to a backdrop of gang warfare. I need to say that I’m not precisely one to imagine in love at first sight, and I used to be nervous that the movie could not develop it any additional; as an alternative offering them with temporary snatches of time collectively, however right here we see how every interplay deepens their affection for one another.

The 2 homes are essentially and inseparably racialised, an replace from the unique Romeo and Juliet play of Shakespeare (and sure it's – and was – a questionable selection to rent barely any precise Puerto Ricans to fill these roles, however nothing’s excellent). The movie advantages from this racial dichotomy by analyzing how they operate below the oppressive, institutionalised rule of legislation. Systemic oppression is innately accountable for the persecution of minorities as we see within the two gang’s rejection of legislation and order.

The gangs will work collectively (albeit briefly) to maintain them off their backs however will simply as rapidly activate one another once more, unaware (even when it's made clear to them by their class conscience – manifested in Doc (Ned Glass) – that what they’re preventing over is in the end nugatory. Each gangs purchase into the ideological state equipment and it ends in self-destruction, Tony is killed for nugatory goals and in a way that we've come to be seen as unbefitting. Earlier than the tragic consequence, our two star-crossed lovers make pretensions in the direction of wealth and better class of their desires and plans for the long run however on the finish of all issues, Tony dies ignobly.

By updating Shakespeare, the movie additionally inverts the bourgeois hegemony that focuses on the ideological and oppressive state apparatuses. Romeo and Juliet are rich. Folks had been (and nonetheless are) involved with the higher lessons, what West Facet Story does is flip the swap, the rich are commanded to take a look at and empathise with the poor. It’s not fairly a deconstruction because it doesn't wholly undermine the social order’s conventional method however it does draw consideration to the hypocrisies in our society which is greater than most texts do.

These are our noblemen, and their dying ought to impress anger. The consequence, then, may be to rally in opposition to the Sharks and declare them the antagonists however the movie rejects this. We get simply as a lot (in all probability extra) screen-time dedicated to understanding the relationships, the loves, hates, criticisms and hardships the Puerto Rican’s face than the Poles.

Score: four/5


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