WEST SIDE STORY Certificate "A" Directors: Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins
ARTHUR LAURENTS's play about New York youth gangs, and Leonard Bernstein's music, made the most exhilarating folk opera of our time. In the Robert Wise film production, with choreographer Jerome Robbins, it is the most shapely intelligent and fluently tuneful musical entertainment.
Choreography is of first importance. For this is, in spite of some first-class songs, like all good musical films a dancing movie; the movement and pacing of films is
AT THE CINEMA
so much closer to dancing than to singing. The film adaptation has been made by the creators of the stage musical, and a remarkable translation it is, hardly suffering at all from the change and sometimes even gaining a little.
Inevitably the stylised teamdancing of the rival gangs — the "Jets" and "Sharks" — partakes of enlarged realism as the camera follows them onto the streets. The brilliance with which this enlargement is achieved without loss of attack in the opening scene-setting takes one's breath away.
The use of a familiar classical theme as a framework for modern drama is time-honoured. The Romeo-and-Juliet analogy here is quite right. The core of the drama fits — in the menacing, quick-offthe-draw, flick-knife suspicions of the two gangs, ill-concealed at the big party; in the "balcony scene" where the "Jets" Romeo, Toni, climbs the tenement fire-escape to his Puerto Rican Juliet, Maria. braving the murderous rage of her Mercutian brother Bernardo, leader of the "Sharks".
But the parallel is not forced or pursued into irrelevance. Puerto Rican "Sharks" and "Jets" (origin ally Polish surely?) are both samples of the melting-pot. They sing with mingled pride and mockery of "gracious living in A-ME-10-CA" in the fine lyrics of Stephen Sundheim, or with savage wit conduct a mock-defence of themselves, delinquents grown up without love but heart.
Earlier I called this a folk-opera, and Bernstein's magic score tends at least as much towards Menotti as to Gershwin. All the various elements, romantic, sentimental. satirical. musical, dramatic, choreographic. are so brilliantly contrived that the enchanting entertainment sustains without faltering the change of step to tragedy.
Teamwork is the gist of the acting as of the story: "When you're a 'Jet' you have a family. The Connection is made . . ."
Both teams are beautifully trained for the film as they were in the theatre, notably the two leaders -George Chakaris for the Puerto Rican "Sharks", and Russ Tamblyn as "Riff", leader of the "Jets".
Richard Beymer I thought miscast as hero — too much taller than everybody else, too dark to contrast well with the Puerto Ricans.
Natalie Wood is charming enough, even with an assumed accent and presumably borrowed voice as Juliet-Maria.
Rita Moreno is splendid in the showier part of her elder, Bernardo's girl, and should not suffer
too much from comparisons wo Chita Rivera who captive!, London in the part.
"Dubbing" is a practice I t monstrous to the mind, I admittedly here it is too well do. to worry anybody not in I know.
Co TO BLAZES Certificate "U" Director: Michael Truman POSTMAN'S KNOCK Certificate "U" Director: Robert Lynn BOTH of these tiny Britis' comedies.. could and show be a great deal better than the are. To me both are neverthel welcome because they are chee. ful and unassuming, and I do h. lieve that a film, to transpose ti motto for little girls, if it can be clever might at least be funr "Go To Blazes" is the me ambitious of the two, having cast of stars fit to set before queen. Given such a quartet • Dave King, Robert Mork Dennis Price and Daniel Mass it may seem unenterprising not find them anything wittier to 1 than play at fire engines in on' to carry off ill-gotten goods collect insurance. Certainly it gie off whiffs of many better crir comedies, such as "The La. Killers" or "Rififi". Neverthek the cast are so variously resoure ful and charming, it would be ficult not to smile — especially Robert Morley, Master of Arsi London is photographed exceptionally fine clean cobs and for unique value the film pe. sents two glamorous Britif' actresses: Coral Browne (Aus tralian) lookinf superb as a mer her of London a haute couture a Maggie Smith as a Cockr French model.
A breath of criticism cou silence "Postman's Knock". Ili the one and only Spike Milligi as a village-type postman who, simple humanity works faster th conveyor belts, touches memon of Tati. Barbara Shelley a seems able to exercise charm ai humour in this disarming min movie.
STORK TALK Certificate "A" Director: Michael Forlong
LOTS of films deliberately ot. rage basic morality. This or seems unaware that there anything objectionable also' immorality.