on 9 January 2009
The Academy got it right for once in 1961, crowning this masterpiece with 10 Oscars. All these years later, it looks and sounds absolutely stunning - slight reservations about Richard Beymer's Tony apart [I feel guilty about even saying that], it remains an almost flawless representation of what Hollywood does best. Of course, a great part of it is down to Leonard Bernstein's timeless score - Maria, Somewhere, Tonight, America - who could cram so many great songs into a musical these days? [What I've never understood is why Bernstein wasn't nominated for an Oscar]. Jerome Robbins's choreography is breathtaking and executed pefectly by the cast - look at the Cool sequence, particularly the tracking shot, and the exuberant America, and Robert Wise's direction was groundbreaking. Natalie Wood is wonderfully touching as Maria, Rita Moreno a peerless Anita, Russ Tamblyn and George Chakiris are both perfect, the supporting cast committed and working wonderfully as an ensemble.
No film musical has reached these heights since. For all its theatricality, I defy anyone to remain unmoved by the closing sequence. This is one of the indisputable classics of American cinema.
According to the studio, West Side Story has undergone hundreds of hours of restoration for this Blu-ray release - a fact that shines through in the Blu-ray's sumptuous 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 2.20:1 encode. This new restoration excels with the film's combination of thick grain, waxy colours and ultra-deep blacks. Most telling of all is the gym dance (Chapter 7), a particularly troublesome sequence with heavily-saturated reds, which are rendered perfectly stable in this Blu-ray encode, with even Maria's virginal white dress unaffected by bleed. But there are fade issues with Saul Bass' credit sequence that the studio has prompted to release corrected discs in the future (no specific date yet). No doubt, this version is much better than the previous DVD edition, but somehow lacks the slam-dunk transfer it should be. (4.5/5)
The audio comes with DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless mix. Unsurprisingly, it's the musical numbers get the best out of the enhanced frequency range and tonal precision offered by this lossless presentation. And while the track is clearly more expansive that the original sound design, it never feels artificial or forced. Use of the rears is actually pretty subtle and atmospheric rather than overtly aggressive. A fine example is the opening of the song Maria (Chapter 10), where the echoes carry into the rears before the rest of the music opens up across the entire soundfield. You can all sing along with most of the songs, like Maria, Tonight, America, I Feel Pretty and Somewhere. The total score (music, Leonard Bernstein and lyrics, Stephen Sondheim) also sounded perfect.
It should be noted that the original six-track mix of West Side Story was found early last year (it has been lost for decades). Good news, right? Well, not really. Fox didn't think it was worth the investment to utilize this newly-discovered mix, instead sticking with a lossless incarnation of the mix that was used for the film's DVD release. So, does West Side Story sound great here? Of course. Is it a definitive mix for the film? Absolutely not. (4.5/5)
In 1962, West Side Story won 10 Oscars, including Best Picture (Robert Wise), Best Director (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins: this was the first time the Best Director's award was being shared. This would not happen again until 46 years later, when Joel Coen and Ethan Coen shared the award for No Country for Old Men.), Best Supporting Actor (George Chakiris), Best Supporting Actress (Rita Moreno), Best Costume Design (Irene Sharaff, who also won Oscars in The King And I, Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, An American In Paris, and Cleopatra), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Music Score. Of course, the soul of the movie was the very young Natalie Wood. (5/5)
The West Side Story Original Soundtrack album is the All-Time Number 1 album as far as longevity at Number 1 position is concerned...a unbelievable 54 weeks at Number 1. The all-time sale champion Thriller by Michael Jackson only racked up 37 weeks at Number 1. Natalie Wood's singing was dubbed by Marni Nixon. Richard Beymer's singing voice was dubbed by Jimmy Bryant.
Opening dance sequences were shot on the upper west side of Manhattan where Lincoln Center stands today. This area was condemned and the buildings were in the process of being demolished to make way for Lincoln Center. The demolition of these buildings was delayed so that the filming of these sequences could be completed.
Did you know that Robert Wise's original choice to play Tony was none other than Elvis Presley himself?
Audrey Hepburn was offered the role of Maria, but she turned it down, because she was pregnant with Sean H. Ferrer at the time.
Throughout the movie, Natalie Wood wears a bracelet on her left wrist, not for any aesthetic reason, but because she had injured her wrist on in the scene of The Green Promise when she fell on the bridge that collapsed during the severe rainstorm, causing an unsightly bone protrusion on her wrist. She wore the bracelet to hide the injury. It became her trademark in all of her movies.
This 50th anniversary boxed set is about the same size as that of Star Wars The Complete Saga, and The Lord Of The Rings Extended Cut. I display them together with the larger size ones (Wizard Of Oz, Ben Hur, Ten Commandments, Gone With The Wind and The Sound Of Music). Included in this 4 disc set are a hardcover book with rare beautiful photos and forward by producer Walter Mirisch, theatrical posters from around the world in 10 collectible postcards (wow!), exclusive tribute CD with covers from Julie Andrews (I Feel Pretty), Gloria Estefan with Dave Grusin (Tonight), the Original Broadway Cast (Gee, Officer Krupke), Charlotte Church (Somewhere), Mandy Patinkin (Something's Coming), Jonathan Butler & Dave Gruson (Maria), Tuck & Patti (One Hand, One Heart), and Maynard Ferguson (Maria). This box set is a truly collector's item and all the above will be treasured. This box set is highly recommended.
I pre-ordered this box set as soon as it was posted and the price then was $47.99. The price has since gone up to $62.99, now lowered to $49.99. The key here is to pre-order as early as possible. If you want to know other tips that I have learned along the way to get the cheapest price while shopping at Amazon.ca, please read my humble advice posted at the end of the Cars 2 (5-disc combo edition) blu ray review. Happy shopping.
As I noted in my review that in the opening sequence, the colour faded to black. This was done in error. The correct version should have no black frame at all. Now Fox has agreed to exchange the defective disc for free. Please follow the following instruction if you have the defective disc (both Blu ray and DVD):
Call Fox Customer care: 1-888-223-4369. The email address for foxcustomercare only applies to US residents. The receptionist will take down your name and address, plus email address, plus the UPC code at the back of the box set. (So have the disc or box set ready when you call). I was told that a return label will be included in the email. Then, return the entire box with the return label on the outside. Then simply give it to the local UPS office. Hopefully, a new set with the correct discs will arrive in the mail.
If you are buying this set in the store, read the UPC. The UPC with the corrected disc is as follows:
Single disc: correct UPC - 88390424523082
Box set: correct UPC - 88390424521681
I shall update you if there is further development. Good luck.
MORE UPDATE (March 19, 2012):
For those people awaiting the exchange program in Canada, I was reassured by Fox Customer Service that at this time, arrangement for exchange from Canada is still not ready, and that I would receive their stamp-free label in the email to mail back the defective box (all discs) and Fox will return the corrected box to us. For those of you that has not bought the box at the beginning, check the UPC at the time of purchase. I am sure that the items available now are all corrected version. I hope this update is helpful to you.
MORE UPDATE ABOUT REPLACEMENT PROGRAM: (May 10, 2012)
Fox Customer Service has finalized the replacement program in Canada. Through email, I was notified by Fox Customer Service that a specified courier company would notify me to pick up my defective set. Within a day or two, my defective box set was picked by that courier company. On May 8, 2012, I was notifed via email that a brand new replacement box set has been sent out. I am looking forward to receiving this new box set. I did not have to pay a single cent to have my defective box set replaced. Hopefully, I shall receive this new replacement box set soon. Many many thanks, Fox, for job well done.
Update (May 14, 2012)
Shorting after the above update, the brand new box set was delivered by courier to my home. Again, I did not spend a single cent in this exchange. Fox is indeed very classy. Thanks again, Fox.
The replacement box set was for those who bought it when it was first released. There is no such defect problem in the current box set being sold on Amazon.ca. Good luck!
on 25 April 2012
Romantiquement parler, le crescendo délicat d'amour inachevé domine ce classique puissant (facilement une des comédies musicales dramatiques les plus fines jamais ont produit). Le déplier d'amour, la passion, et l'intimité entre Tony et Maria, comme le riptide, renverse dans l'âme de ce film. Leurs mots chuchotés et orchestré sur le balcon créent des nuances au-delà du royaume de drame normal. Leur mariage avant que Dieu établit leur union, solidifie le crescendo romantique, et permet à Maria pour porter le deuil la mort de son mari à la fin. C'est une tragédie complète sur tous les niveaux respectifs.
Toutes les réunions entre Tony (joué par Richard Beymer) et Maria (joué par Natalie Bois) étourdissent dans la présentation. Les ouvertures musicales sont superbes, la danse est brillante, et le conflit entre les Jets et les Requins (les femmes ont inclus) a sa propre originalité dans les termes classiques. Pourtant, Maria ordonne seul l'étape dans pratiquement tous les moments tendres (sauf ces Anita impliquant) ; notre douceur de l'héroïne, l'intelligence, et la sagesse non testée établit son contrôle brûlant du jeu (commence à finir). Dans autant que son humilité ne diminue pas les autres exécutions puissantes, Maria affiche l'honneur, le sacrifice, la profondeur, et l'engagement à travers le drame entier. Nous observons Natalie Bois dans son heure la plus fine comme une actrice douée.
Les principes de dominante de tragédie romantique ce jeu dans son adhésion prudente au développement de complot et caractère dans Shakespeare Roméo et dans Juliet (qui est le mentor de Maria inexprimé dans les questions de passion et de contrôle d'un amant). Elle réoriente Tony loin de l'idylle sécrété dans les conséquences tragiques d'interférence avec le grondement ; les morts de Bernardo (son frère) et le Riff (ami de Tony le plus proche) sont relatés (dans l'ironie dramatique) à son intervention secrète (soit-disant sur leur part). En réalité, ce chef-d'oeuvre réside dans les deux catégories, les deux tragédie et les deux idylle ; la limite (peut-être) par sa voix mélancolique, « Faire ne vous le touchez pas » ! Notre catharsis est directement affectée par la jeune passion de Maria liée à l'amour inachevé dans ses la plupart des étapes délicats.