Artistic note: (4.5/5).
In 1957, two gangs of young people clash for control of an underprivileged neighborhood on the Upper West Side. On the one hand, the gang of Puerto Rican immigrants recently arrived in New York, the Sharks, led by Bernardo; on the other, the gang of the last European immigrants, the Jets, led by Riff. Recently released from prison, former Jets boss Tony no longer wants anything to do with violence and works at Valentina’s grocery store. During a dance party, Tony falls in love with María, Bernardo’s sister, and the two young people are forced to live their love secretly. But a fight between the Sharks and the Jets turns into a tragedy…
• Original title: West Side Story
• Media tested: UHD
• Genre: musical, drama
• Year: 2021
• Director: Steven Spielberg
• Cast: Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Rita Moreno, Brian d’Arcy James, Corey Stoll, Mike Faist
• Duration: 2 h 36 min 20
• Video format: 16:9
• Cinema format: 2.39/1 (HDR10)
• Subtitles: French, German, Italian, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, English
• Soundtracks: Dolby Atmos English – Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 French, German, Italian
• Bonus: combo with the UHD and the Blu-ray of the film – bonus in VOST on the Blu-ray: The Stories of West Side StoryMaking of directed by Laurent Bouzereau (2022, 96 min 53) – the songs: 16 excerpts from the film (64 min 47)
• Publisher: 20th Century Studios
Sixty after the movie West Side Story by Robert Wise, who won ten Oscars, the musical that rocked generations of spectators returns to the screen under the leadership of Steven Spielberg. Revisiting such a masterpiece was obviously a risky project despite all the talent that we recognize in the filmmaker.
The original show was a lyric drama staged on Broadway on September 26, 1957 starring Larry Kent (Tony), Carol Lawrence (Maria), and Chita Rivera (Anita). Composed by Leonard Bernstein, this variation of the piece “Romeo and Juliet” was written by Stephen Sondheim (who died in 2021 during the production of the film: see bonus) for the lyrics and Arthur Laurents for the libretto. The choreography was by Jerome Robbins who was also the initiator of the show since it was he who, in 1949, proposed to Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Laurents the idea of a musical modernization of Shakespearean drama. First titled East Side Story which exposed the rivalry between Catholics and Jews, the show refocused on immigration will become West Side Story in 1957. Following its immense success, it was adapted for the cinema in 1961 under the direction of Robert Wise and became the masterpiece known to all in which the affair of Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Beymer) will be thwarted by the war between Riff’s Jets (Russ Tamblyn) and Bernardo’s Sharks (George Chakiris).
As Steven Spielberg explains (see bonus) the project to adapt this musical again had been dormant in him since his youth in a music-loving family and it was a genre he had not yet tackled in prolific filmography, hence his wish expressed in 2014. Not wishing to copy the previous film, his version, more faithful to the Broadway show and which takes place in 1957, will be differentiated by its artistic choices, while succeeding in the bet of be a subtle tribute to the acclaimed work of Robert Wise. With this intention, the new West Side Story will be filmed in film by Janusz Kamiński – whose lighting and camera movements we will appreciate – so as to rediscover the visual style of the 60s and some members of the original cast will be present, in particular Rita Moreno who obtains the role of Valentina (replacing Doc in the original) and executive producer. However, Tony Kushner’s screenplay for this new version is completely revised, digs deeper into the characters and relies on the misdeeds of New York rehabilitation in the 1960s, which will increase the social divide. This rise in racism, communitarianism and violence, is also in perfect resonance with our current concerns. With this intention, the director has also insisted that all the actors have the age of their roles and that the Sharks are played by Latin Americans whose language will not be subtitled. He will be able to count on a talented team of technicians and on his charismatic young actors capable of both dancing and singing live (unlike the post-synchronized 1961 film): Rachel Zegler (Maria), Ansel Elgorf (Tony) Ariana DeBose (Anita ) and Mike Faist (Riff). Steven Spielberg will make a success of his version which turns out to be well filmed, well interpreted and efficiently staged during the four months of filming in 2019 (to find out all about it: see the very long Making of by Laurent Bouzereau given as a bonus on the Blu -ray). The excellent work on the music (David Newman), the choreography (Justin Peck), the costumes (Paul Tazewell), the sets (Adam Stokhausen) contribute to the quality of this West Side Story 2021 which bears comparison with its illustrious model. However, despite all the empathy inseparable from this legendary musical, this version, whose adaptation is ultimately more classic than daring, did not have the expected public success and only won one Oscar 2022 for Ariana DeBose (Best Supporting Actress). Too bad because this West Side Story more naturalistic and more up-to-date, deserved acclaim for its harsher look at the disruptions and segregation of society, even if it tends to relegate the romance of Maria and Tony to the background. Admittedly, this version will not be able to compete with the original, which has become legendary, but attests that, whatever the genre approached. Steven Spielberg remains an exceptional director.
Picture : UHD copy, very good definition, silver sharpness and texture less sharp than in digital (shooting in 35 mm on Kodak Vision film with Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2 cameras, Master Format 4K), naturalistic management of lighting, HDR restores the nuances of various lighting differentiated between the shots outdoors and those in the studio, image nevertheless quite dense with never high brightness, saturated blacks, detail in the shadows, warm color grading, colorimetry (Rec 2020) ample with bright and saturated colors in HDR, tones nuanced
His : English mix Dolby Atmos, clear and balanced dialogues and vocals, excellent dynamics which especially benefits the danced and sung sequences, ample and coherent spatialization, unspectacular on the atmospheres, more effective on the music and on the songs with a nice distribution on all the surrounds and the channels heights used for a few effects, solid but punctual LFEs; VF 7.1, clear, dynamic, well spatialized, neat dubbing but more artificial when the dialogues give way to the original songs in VOST
Picture : (4.5/5)
Sound mixes: (4.5/5)
IMDb : https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3581652/
UHD/Blu-ray combo, Blu-ray and DVD available on Amazon
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