“West Side Story”, a love of film



If there is one film that has not been forgotten, it is West Side Story. I mean, forgotten by the generations who saw it when it was released in France, in 1962. They are millions, almost nine if we believe the box office. It is considerable but after all several films had already done better: French people like The Cow and the Prisoner Where The Little World of Don Camillo, Americans like The Guns of Navarone Where Ben hur, not to mentionGone with the wind, whose success more than ten years previously was twice as great in France.

But not everything is measured by the number of tickets sold and for West Side Story it is undoubtedly much higher than the number of people who actually saw the film. In fact, every time I talk about it, particularly to my female friends, they tell me that they have seen it four or five times each, not in television or video reruns but in theaters, where the film was held. displays for years.

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It is astonishing that the same people, sixty years later, feel such a great appetite for the new version which has just released. The name of the director, Steven Spielberg, has a lot to do with it, because he is a child who speaks to the children that we all are. But this is not enough. The rave reviews of this new version either. It seems to me rather that rediscovering, in its new finery, a film that we loved passionately and that we saw on several occasions, is to offer ourselves two gifts.

The first, anecdotal but delectable, allows you to experience the same pleasure in a different way. In short, relaunch it. To be told about a drama that you know by heart, but reformulated; hear music of which every bar is familiar, but at a different tempo, with new voices and better sound; discover a new choreography, new decorations, in other colors, for a new impetus. Why do some people wonder about the relevance of revisiting a masterpiece? We never say “what’s the point” when a new staging of a great classic of the theater or the opera is proposed.

The second gift is to go and meet yourself. To marvel, yes! but above all to verify that this film that we loved so much when we were 15 deserved our generous passion. Reconnect with the adolescent that we were, who opened her heart to this long show to the point of feeling, for the time of a screening, energetic like Roberto dancing on a roof and pretty like Maria spinning in front of her mirror… West Side Story revisited reassures us about this young being, long disappeared, deeply buried in us, that he resuscitates the time of a greeting, a tap on the shoulder. Nothing in this new version, brilliant and moving, disavows “ours”, so that nothing either disavows the young enthusiast that we were, in which we have drawn the one or the one that we have become.

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A 9-year-old was with me the other night. It was the first film he saw in its original version, and possibly his first major film. He was more familiar with the manga and 50-minute formats the series offers on platforms, but he had heard of Romeo and Juliet before and so didn’t expect this to end well. Was it wise to have taken him to see West Side Story ? On the way back, while we were chatting, I found him especially curious to understand how we can, sixty years apart, still expect something from a film that is almost the same as another that we have. already seen several times. And I could see that the idea, in the next few years, of possibly also encountering a work capable of marking him for his entire life seemed to him a promising mystery.

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