Last night, due to some sort of a shipping error, West Side Story was shown in place of the film "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", at around 8:00 p.m., at the Somerville Theatre, which is not far from where I live. I was cruising casually on my computer, and on the Somerville theatre's website, when I noticed the message: "Due to a shipping error, West Side Story will be shown on Saturday, Sept. 17th, at 8:00 p.m. as a substitute for It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." I noticed it was just 8:00 o'clock, so I quickly got my stuff together, turned on the TV for and said a quick goodbye to Aziza, my Pet Congo African Grey Parrot, and hurried down to my car, and to the movie theatre. I had to park farther away from the theatre than I would've liked, so I steamed along down towards the movie theatre as fast as I could, and bought my ticket, only missing about five minutes of the film. ...
West Side Story is really spectacular on a great big wide movie theatre screen anyhow, but the 70mm version of the film makes the various characters in the film look much more three-dimensional. The facial expressions of toughness, sadness, arrogance and anger are far more noticeable, and the characters all look as if they've fought for survival in a harsh environment. Although last night's showing of the film West Side Story didn't sell out, there was a good crowd, and everybody enjoyed themselves. The lighting was also somewhat more subtle in some places, such as Maria's balcony, and even the place where the Rumble occurred, as well as the large garage that the Jets and their girls hid out from the cops during the "Cool" scene.
The dancing, scenery, the already-intensely brilliant Leonard Bernstein musical score, as well as the story, the characters and the richly-colored costumes and cinematography all seemed to be even more prominent on a great big, wide movie theatre screen, but that was especially so in the 70mm version of the film West Side Story. Whether it was because I was excited about seeing West Side Story in 70mm film, seeing it on a Saturday night, or because I was rushing to the movie theatre at the last minute to catch this particular viewing of the film, or a combination of all the above, I found myself especially engulfed in the film overall.
I laughed out loud at all the funny parts, found myself smiling at many other parts, tensing at the edge of my seat at the particularly intense parts of West Side Story, and misting up, with a sort of a lump in my throat at the sadder parts, especially when Anita is grieving over the death of Bernardo during the Rumble, when she and Maria were singing "When Love Comes so strong, there is no right or wrong. Your love is your life." The America and the Cool scenes, as well as the Dance at the Gym scene, especially made me smile, and the Officer Krupke scene, as well as a number of other comments and scenes in the movie, made me laugh out loud.
From the warring Jets and Sharks to the adults in the film West Side Story (i. e. Doc the Candy Store owner, the cynical and bigoted Lt. Schrank, and the equally cynical but quieter Ofcr. Krupke), the various characters in West Side Story seem to move much more fluidly and freely, and in a much wider, more open space, and this classic film seems to take on a magical, almost 3-dimensional quality when shown on a great big, wide movie theatre screen, especially in 70mm film. The beauty of the film West Side Story is emphasized on a great big, wide screen, in a real movie theatre, with the lights down low, but the 70mm film version seems especially emphatic on this film's beauty and authenticity.
Before and after the screening, I talked to a number of cool people, some of who'd seen it before, and others who hadn't. It was great to converse with other people who'd been to the screening of WSS, whether I knew them or not. One thing is certain: While West Side Story is enjoyable when shown on TV or even an elaborate home theatre system, it's just simply not the same as when it's seen in a regular movie theatre, on a great big, wide screen, with the lights down low, and sharing the experience with other people, whether one knows them or not. Viewed on a great big, wide movie theatre screen, especially in 70mm film, West Side Story is even more appreciable as the work of art and dynamic package that it really and truly is. Part of West Side Story's strength, however, also lies in the fact that, when WSS was transferred from stage to screen, it was preserved as a larger-than-lifesized piece of theatre.