West Side Story

West Side Story ★★★★★

Dominated by red, heightening every scene, purple blending, cool cool blue and black in that one scene, making people look good even from low angles (not powerful, but good, beautiful, centered and elegant), movement, edits with the rhythm, melting between scenes, blurring out the world, bright sun opening and then mood lighting for hours, Anybodys is trans, Baby John is gay (see how gentle A-Rab is with him), Nardo is sexy in that purple shirt, I want to wield a dress like Rita Moreno does during "America," I want to feel pretty, see how this film handles emotion--

It combines at least four art forms to do it. In "Cool," it combines film (duh), dance, music, and fashion to exude the epitome of the idea of cool. You feel them trying to get it under control, feel them trying to be cool. Every song is like this. "Maria" fills you with Tony's immediate love; "Officer Krupke" is artful snark (and notice how it mocks mercilessly all the ways the authorities try to blame everyone but themselves for crime); "Somewhere: is what dreams sound like. The masterpiece is "America."

For one, it's not a battle of the sexes. It looks like it, but if you look closely, if you listen in, if you wait for it, you hear and see that they are laughing, cheering, enjoying themselves. For another, it is vastly more complex than it should be. It's a showtune; it doesn't need to be anything more than a burst of sound. It manages to sneak in--still more or less broadly compared to the complexity the subject deserves--the push-pull between holding onto your culture and assimilating into American white supremacy. It doesn't flinch from racism even if it doesn't offer any real insights. I mean, it's not really sung by very many actual Puerto Rican people, either, so. Mostly, though, it centers on the superb performance of Rita Moreno, who... dances. Like. I just. Look at her movements. I just. I can't. You just need to see it. She is in complete control of herself and everything around her, and the camera knows how to follow and hang back and just barely hold it all in the frame.

Anyway, I love this movie.

Sally Jane liked these reviews