The clues that Steven Spielberg would be a brilliant musical director were there – the debut of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, to name just one – but the filmmaker reserved a titanic challenge for himself: to revisit West Side Story with a extraordinary adaptation which seeks the balance between the homage to its predecessor, directed by Robert Wise in 1961, and the need for a narrative and visual modernization with a certain historical justice.
Leonard Bernstein’s music and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics remain, but the most problematic part of the story has been changed: There is now an accurate Latin portrayal instead of make-up faces, and Anybodys is treated like a trans rather than a tomboy, and the context widened.
The ruins of San Juan Hill and the construction of Lincoln Center in the 1950s, which led to the relocation of many working-class families, opens the film and redirects the frustrations of the Jets and Sharks. Social consciousness always has been, but now it seems more refined. Thus, Spielberg seeks specificity in a more cinematographic and less theatrical version, both in the staging – the camera abandons itself to movement offering powerful internal montages – as in the realism of the places and a more raw violence.
Moreover, with Rita Moreno being an essential piece, and not just nostalgic, the film breathes new life into a classic without modifying it too much, and, at the same time, making us see it as if it is the first time.
The film was excellent, and seeing it on the cinema screens was an amazing and fascinating opportunity and experience.