West Side Story, to me, as a film, is more than just a movie. It's truly an emotional experience to see it again and again, and it's the only film that beckons me to go and see it every time it comes around, whether it be on TV, or on a great big, wide screen, in a real movie theatre with the lights down low, and with a whole slew of other people to share the experience with, whether one knows them or not.
There are certain things that I've posted on other threads, as well as here on this forum, but they bear repeating here: My initial introduction to West Side Story was through the music to the original Broadway stage production, while I was attending day camp out West, in Tucson, AZ. This was back in the summertime of 1962, prior to my entering the sixth grade.
One girl in the group I was with, who'd just received a copy of the LP Album of the original Broadway stage production of West Side Story for her birthday, brought it to camp one morning, and played it for the rest of the group. My love for the music to West Side Story took off instantly. West Side Story-mania was in the air that summer. Kids would sing the songs from WSS on the bus to and from camp every day, and would often roam the hallways in packs, snapping their fingers and singing the songs. It was so cool!
When the summer was over and I arrived home, I played my parents' copy of the same LP of the soundtrack to the Broadway stage production of West Side Story on my parents' Hi-Fi whenever I could, and, much to my parents' chagrin, loved banging around with the songs from WSS on the piano.
Due to the fact that my parents didn't consider West Side Story a kids' movie, and to my relative social isolation from other kids, I would not get to see the film version of West Side Story until several years later, at around Christmastime of 1968, as a high school Senior, during a big national re-release of this film. I saw it with my mom's live-in Dutch Opair, at a now-defunct cinema 45 minutes north of Boston, and in the Boston suburb where my siblings and I grew up. I fell in love with the film instantly, and have been hooked on it ever since.
Since I didn't get to see West Side Story (the film) until it had past its heyday of freshness and newness, it tugs at my heartstrings in a somewhat different way than most people in my age group who saw it when they were pre-teens. Unlike most of the other kids who saw it with other kids and had lots of memories of chatting about which Jet or Shark (guys or gals) that they liked best, I had a somewhat different perspective of it. Since I was still a teenager in high school when I first saw the film West Side Story, I identified with the Jets, the Sharks, and their girls regarding kids being kids and so on, but when I grew a little older, I developed an appreciation for West Side Story not only for the story behind it, but for the work of art and the larger-than-life piece of theatre that this film really is.
Yet, at the same time, when I think about it, the fact that I didn't get to see the film West Side Story when most people in my age group got to see it is probably all for the better, since it enabled me to develop a fuller appreciation for this film.
West Side Story tugs at my heartstrings after all these years in other ways, too.
First, it's reminiscent of a time when Hollywood was far more creative in its endeavors than it is now, and didn't constantly resort to expensive special affects, sequels, or remakes of prominent movies, the latter of which has often turned out disastrous.
Secondly, both the original Broadway stage production and the film version of West Side Story were created during more exuberant, hopeful and optimistic times, when just about anything was considered possible.
Thirdly, the film West Side Story harkens back to a time when movies were all about substance and style, with real stories and plots behind them. Nowadays, many, if not most movies coming out nowadays are long on style (if one can really call it that with a straight face!) and woefully short on substance. What passes for substance and style these days often takes the form of overly graphic, gory, violent, and explicitly sexual behavior on the screen, but, given the times, it would be asking much too much of today's Hollywood to create films that are set during these other times, and to tone the rhetoric and steamier scenes down.
Many movies, including West Side Story, that were made before 1970, were photographed much more pristinely, and without the pixels that dot all too many of today's films that're coming out. Yet, at the same time, digital projection seems to be the wave of the future today, and many of the independent movie theatres (the few that're left here in the United States) have had to make the choice between converting to digital projection or going dark. Non-Profit, independent movie theatres whose proprietors have been unable or unwilling to convert to digital projection have gone dark, and the fact that the studios stopped printing movies in film a couple of years ago hasn't really helped at all. The same thing is true of most drive-in movie theatres, as well, since it's probably even more expensive for drive-in movie theatres to convert to digital projection.
Fourth: I always get sort of a euphoric rush when I see West Side Story posted on a movie theatre calendar, or on a movie theatre's website. Although seeing the movie West Side Story on TV is enjoyable, it's definitely not the same as seeing such a wonderful classic film as that in a real movie theatre, on a great big, wide screen, with the lights down low, and sharing the whole experience with other people, whether I go solo, or with family/friends, to see this film.
Fifth: West Side Story is a beautiful film all around, and, imo, one of the few musicals that really proven successful on both stage and screen, due to the fact that the story and the background scenery (i. e. run-down urban areas for the backdrop)provide the resources right there, if one gets the drift.
Sixth: West Side Story is a film that I never get tired of seeing over and over and over again. It's a great, golden oldie-but-keeper of a classic that thoroughly deserved all ten Academy Awards (including Best Picture of 1961, the year it came out.)that it received.
Seventh: The film West Side Story, as some people say, is a feast for the eyes, ears, mind and the heart. The time that West Side Story came out was the start of a very exuberant and very exciting era, as well.
The MGM adage "Unlike other classics, West Side Story grows younger." rings so true! Those who were predicting that there'd never, ever be another film like it again were so right, and it's just as well...a blessing!