West Side Story Night:

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Hello, everybody!    I figured that I’d make today’s essay about my big night last Thursday, once again seeing my all time favorite movie.     I  wrote this same essay on firefly-dreaming.com, gave Aziza her medicine, cleaned her cage, changed her veggies and water, covered her cage, and went to bed.  It was all worth it, even though I got home well past midnight.  

Back to the subject at hand;  Here goes my essay on my big night last Thursday:

I left Somerville slightly before two o’clock on Thursday afternoon,  so that the afternoon/evening rush-hour out of Boston wouldn’t hold me up.   Swinging west onto the Mass. Turnpike, I drove until I was way out of the Route 128 area, into very pretty greenery and scenery.  As always happens here in New England, in late April, things are beginning to look really green and lush, especially when one arrives in the Berkshires, which are at the far western part of the Bay State, and open out like a beautiful panorama of mountainous green.  Great scenery to behold!  This is definitely the time of year to really appreciate it, although I would never, ever want to set up and establish roots out in that part of the state for at least two reasons:  It’s too far out on the frontier for my liking, and the winters out there can be extremely long…and brutal, if one gets the drift.   Given our New England winters (and weather, generally), which are often quite hit-or-miss, it’s too unpredictable for me to want to deal with.  

When I finally got off the Mass. Turnpike, at the next to last exit before one hits Albany, NY, however,  I noticed that, since it does tend to be considerably cooler out in the other end of the Bay State, that the trees didn’t seem half as green or lush.  Oh, well…maybe a little later.  Pretty soon, I think.  

After a  3  1/2 hour long, scenic drive, I finally arrived in the city of Pittsfield, MA,  which was formerly a mill-town and still pretty much a working-class city, although it’s up and coming.  It’s right at the opposite end of the Bay State, right by the Massachusetts-New York State border.  It’s got a great deal of charm, but, again…it’s not a place where I’d want to set up roots, for the reasons that I mentioned above.  The city of Pittsfield, in many places, especially in the downtown/business district, is about as tough, if not tougher, than parking here in Boston, Cambridge, Brookline or Somerville in many places.  There aren’t any meters, but I think people keep a close watch.  When I finally arrived in Pittsfield, and found parking (the parking situation was a little tense), it was one block up from the Barrington State Company Theatre, on Pittsfield’s Main street, in the business district.  

At the recommendation of one woman who runs a Carrot Cake Store in town, just across from Barrington State Co, I had a bite to eat at a place called The Lantern, at a reasonable price, at a relaxed pace (thank heavens I’d arrived in Pittsfield in enough time to do that  prior to the movie), and then waited inside the Barrington Stage Company lobby for the movie.  I’d bought my ticket months in advance, so I didn’t have to worry about anything, and starting out in plenty of time had helped a great deal.  The people  who I met while in Pittsfield were very charming, pleasant, helpful and nice, and didn’t seem to have the same sort of suspicion towards outsiders that people in some Boston neighborhoods, even nowadays, seem to have.  It was a welcome change, but then again, one never really knows people until they’ve interracted with them for long periods of time.  The people  (including the people who worked at Barrington Stage Co.),  were somewhat wowed when I said that I’d driven out there from the Boston area for a special movie.  A three and a half hour drive.   I’d heard about some substantial rain arriving later in the evening prior to going, but wasn’t daunted, and was determined to go anyway.  

The movie West Side Story was shown in the main auditorium, in the most charming part of the building, which is rather old, but beautifully charming brick edifice on a small street off of the business district of town.  If only so many cities here in the United States weren’t so overdeveloped in the name of progress.  That being said, imo, one can hardly blame people who reside in many of Boston’s neighborhoods for fighting against overdevelopment, after having been so traumatized by the disastrous affects of poorly-thought-out Urban Renewal Policies back in the 1950’s and 1960’s that displaced so many people.  Pittsfield, although still run down at the heels and full of charm, however, is still up and coming.  

The print of West Side Story, which was a large, high-definition DVD, was spectacular;  and there were no splices, no glitches, or any other common signs of a much, much older film were present.  It had clearly been cleaned up, reprinted and re-mastered so that the showing was pristine and the color just right.  It was a big screen, but it still cried for more of the scenery to be shown, but everything was in top shape.    Digital project, I think, is the wave of the future, and I seriously wonder how the few independent, non-profit movie theatres that’re left here in the United States (including the Brattle, the Coolidge and the Somerville Theatre) are going to be able to survive on the long run, if they cannot (due to expenses) or will not accept conversion to digital projection.  Memories of the Coolidge Corner and the Somerville Theatres’ near-demolition 23 years ago still come to mind.  Sure, it’s better to have film, but, one takes what they can get.

More to the point, the soundtrack of West Side Story, as well as the audio aspects of it were rather pristine, also.  That made a huge difference, as well.  The show didn’t sell out, by any means, but there was a good crowd, nonetheless.  This High-Definition quality DVD is far better than the Blu-Ray Version of West Side Story that recently came out last November, which has many problems, which made Robert Harris, a well-known and respected film historian, steam..and with ample reason.   I also felt that I was watching West Side Story, my all time favorite movie, unfold before me, in the kind of punchy,  sort of in-one’s-face manner that it was originally supposed to unfold in front of its audience.  Again, the whole cast, from  the color-changing overture, to the warring Jets and Sharks to the romancing Tony and Maria.  Even Richard Beymer’s Tony came off as he was supposed to;  a somewhat tough-but-tender ex-gang member who softened up and fell in love after leaving the Jets, only to be pulled back in by his old buddy, Riff, who’d taken over the Jet gang leadership after Tony had left.  

The very story behind WSS came off rather starkly, and the background scenery behind the movie as a whole, was strong-looking, also.  Many people, including myself, had long regarded Richard Beymer as a very weak  Tony in the film West Side Story, and the Beymer-bashing in many circles seems to have gotten out of control.  I did learn something 2 or 3 years ago, however, that made me somewhat more sympathetic with Richard Beymer and more willing to give him some benefit of the doubt.  Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood had a very bad rapport off-screen, in real life,  Natalie Wood disliked Richard Beymer more than he disliked her, and, in fact, Natalie Wood had tried to get Richard Beymer kicked off the set on several occasions.    Beymer was clearly pained by Woods’ hostility towards him, and I think it showed somewhat.  That being said, I think that had Natalie Wood not been so hostile towards Richard Beymer during the filming of West Side Story,  Richard Beymer might have played a considerably stronger role as Tony, although it’s hard to know, given the way in which the scripts of both the original Broadway stage production and the film version of West Side Story had originally been written.

Arthur Laurents hated the movie with a passion, and it’s said that Stephen Sondheim, who’d written the lyrics to both the stage play and the film version, didn’t like the film either, but eh…to me, the film West Side Story remains my all time favorite film, and for once, I just decided not to go along with the opinions of a couple of the professionals.  I noticed that, unlike  the Boston and New York area screenings of West Side Story that I’ve at tended, there was a noticeable dearth of today’s younger people in the audience, although there were plenty of young adults, but no teens in the audience.  Perhaps it’s because of the overall area where Barrington Stage Conpany is, or or perhaps it’s because many of the teens out there, as in many other places, are into films that they consider much grittier and more realistic.  

There seemed to be many people in their 40s and up in that audience, which was also comforting.  But why should it matter, as long as I enjoy seeing my all time favorite film on a great big, wide movie theatre screen?  I watch West Side Story when it comes on TV, as well, which, in turn, whets my desire to see it on a great big, wide movie theatre screen, with the lights down low.  Crazy as it seems, this is true.  The color of this particular print of West Side Story was also quite pristine and just right;   not too intense, and not too subtle–just the way it’s supposed to be.  From what I understand, many of the older classic films, such as West Side Story, Wizard of Oz and many others are being re-done, cleaned up, reprinted and remastered in digital.  Let’s hope that it attracts more people towards these classics, and increases their chances of being shown in real movie theatres in the future, rather than just being available for a big-assed TV, in one’s living room at home, and therefore having much, if not most of the specialness taken out of watching such beautiful films.  Speaking of people, I wonder if the people who’d picked on me, constantly made fun of me and isolated me while I was growing up, especially in high school, would really think of me now if they knew that West Side Story was my all time favorite film, and that I was a devout follower of this great classic?  But does it really matter?  I don’t think so, since these people are now in my past.  

During this particular screening of West Side Story, although this was a reserved audience, I found that my emotions came up  just as much;  smiling at all the exuberant parts, on the edge of my seat during the more intense parts, and laughing out loud (more quietly) at the funny parts (especially the Officer Krupke scene), and misting up during Maria’s comforting Anita and wiping away her tears after Bernardo’s death during the rumble.  One thing about West Side Story, however;  the message that it sends is a beautiful, but with a double-edge sword;  On the one hand, it shows the consequences of arrogance, hubris and hatred, and depicts the senselessness of the resulting (gang) violence,  and how destructive it is, and, yet, it provides the message that reconciliation between people is possible, especially when several Jets and Sharks come together and carry Tony’s body off after he has been shot by a now-angry, vengeful Chino, who’d avenged his friend, Bernardo’s death.  Tony, of course, quickly reverted back to his old street-tough self of course, when he avenged Riff’s death by stabbing Bernardo, and scaled the fence, and then flipped over it after the Rumble, when Anybodys appeared from out of the shadows and dragged Tony away from danger, and then tried to get him to leave the area after telling him that Chino was gunning for him.

West Side Story, I think sends a number of messages;  that people’s true personalities are never really that far from the surface,  bubbling back up when the opportunity arises, and that one can never really escape how and where they were brought up.  Yet, it still has a youthful, timeless quality to it as a film overall, but proves that being too eager to prove one’s bravery and heroism can and often enough does have disastrous results.   It also points out that anybody, no matter how gentle and/or sweet a person seems to be, there’s no telling when a jarring event will crop up, and reveal  a part of one’s personality that has really been lurking beneath the surface all along, if one gets the drift.  Yet, West Side Story also depicts the consequences of racial and ethnic hatred, and how destructive it often is.  Sadly, it took three deaths before the kids in both gangs even showed hints of coming to their senses and attempted to reach to each other.  

I will close by saying that it was all worth it, and I hope to see another screening of West Side Story again soon, although I’ll be seeing The Graduate, with Dustin Hoffman, at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, on Monday night, and the James Bond movie “Live and Let Die” at the  Somerville Theatre this Friday night.  

You all know me…While I’ve seen a number of newer films and other older classic films that I’ve liked a great deal,  there’s only one movie that tugs at my heartstrings in a special way, and that’s….West Side Story!  Pardon my rambling, folks.  

1 comment

    • mplo on April 30, 2012 at 02:38

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