Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Both singers are dubbed and both are singularly limited as movie actors. (Yet who else could go from playing Tony in West Side Story (1961) to playing -- 30 years later -- Benjamin Horne[!] in Twin Peaks?) And yes we know that Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer hated each other on set. (Wood wanted her then-husband -- and future murderer -- Richard Wagner as Tony.) Plus the movie is not light and funny, nor a showcase for star performers in their best routines. Still. . .

Where did all this go? What happened to it? This quiet and warmth. This full-bodied belief in transcendence, heartbreak, longing. This sense of doom coming not from covens of corporate vampires creating a world frozen in dread, cynicism, and corruption; rather, a tragic forboding arising from the nature of things, as if one is never in so much danger as when happy and/or alive -- that is when the devils seem to have their day, and hawks steal something living from the gambol on the field.

West Side Story can now be seen, almost 60 years on, as a bleeding-heart opera of the Kennedy Years, filled with a faith in endless possibility and joy, undercut by distant drums, it is a movie with a vanished New York City of movement, color, good humor, fellowship, and a loathing of pretension and power at the center of its tender heart. Let it bleed.