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Transcript

Table of contents

I. Synopsis of the movie

II. Link with Shakespeare's play "Romeo and Juliet"
III. The Gang War:
The Sharks
The Jets

IV. The Lovers

V. Steven Spielberg

VI. Favorite song(s)

VII. Differences between the 2 movies 1961-2021

VIII. The character of Anita

I. Synopsis of the movie

West Side Story is the award-winning adaptation of the classic romantic tragedy "Romeo and Juliet" that takes place in New York City. The sharks and the jets are rival gangs who battle each other for territory in their neighbourhood. On the one hand, the white Jets led by Riff and on the other hand, the Latino Sharks, led by Bernardo. Tensions rise at a dance party when Tony, [one of the founders of the Jets] and Maria, [the recently arrived sister of Bernardo], fall in love at first sight. Despite the consequences of this relationship, the two lovers plan to run away and live in freedom. However, the gangs are plotting one last rumble, a fight that will finally end the battle for control of the streets. So, the couple must then resist this fight that can destroy the people around them but also their love. And it's at the end of the film when the tensions subside with the death of Tony who was killed in front of his lover's eyes.

II. Link with Shakespeare's play "Romeo and Juliet"

There are many connections between William Shakespeare's 1597 tragedy Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story. Indeed, Juliet's Capulets and Romeo's Montagues living in Verona are transferred to the 20th century, in the Upper West Side, in Manhattan. The families are represented by two rival gangs: the Jets, the Americans, and the Sharks, originally from Puerto Rico. But this time, the script reflects on the mixing of cultures in the United States while in the play, it is more about family jealousies. In both cases, everyone is opposed to the love between the two people. Thus, the end is tragic because it is marked by death. On the one hand, the couple Romeo and Juliet and on the other hand Tony, murdered by Chino, a member of The Sharks who loved Maria.

The Jets

The Jets are a gang on the streets of New York City. They are rivals with The sharks. They are young white working class men who consider themselves the real Americans because they were born in America. The leader is Riff, played by actor Mike Faist in West Side Story (2021).

Tony has left the group because he doesn't want to deal with violence in the streets anymore despite Riff's desire to reintegrate him.

The Sharks

III. The gang war

The Sharks are a gang on the streets of New York City. They are rivals with the jets. The Sharks are second generation immigrants from Puerto Rico. They hate the Jets and use throughout the film the term "gringo" to refer to them. The leader is Bernardo, played by David Alvarez in West Side Story (2021).
Maria is Bernardo's sister, who just arrived in the city. She lives with him and his girlfriend Anita.

IV. The Lovers

Tony and Maria meet for the first time at a dance party and feel attracted to each other. They dance together, forgetting the tension between the Jets and the Sharks in the room. They fall in love.
Maria, promised to Chino, wants to run away with Tony after he serenades her at the bottom of her window. Later, she learns that Tony killed her brother but her feelings towards him are stronger. At the end of the film, Anita, (Bernardo's girlfriend), makes Tony believe that Maria was killed by Chino but he was trapped and killed in front of the eyes of his lover. The end shows that despite the violence between the two gangs, love is stronger.

In West Side Story 2021,
- Maria was played by Rachel Zegler. In 2021, She won the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Award as the Best Actress.
- Tony was played by Ansel Elgort.

V. Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg (1946-) is an American director, screenwriter and producer. He is known as "The Entertainment King". In the late 1960s, he became part of the New Hollywood film movement and contributed to the modernisation of American cinema. With famous works such as Jaws and E.T., he became a true pioneer of science fiction in cinema thanks to his personality and creativity.
For his adaptation of West Side Story, he won the 2022 Golden Globes for Best Director. Indeed, he has been working on this project since 2014 and says he has "taken on the challenge" with a new generation of actors.

VI. Favorite song(s)

My favourite music in the film is "the Prologue". It corresponds to the first scene of the movie where we see the Jets dancing. It's a music that makes you want to dance. The choreography itself was also well done and the dancers are very talented.

VII. Differences between the 2 movies 1961-2021

West Side Story is an adaptation of the 1961 film which was originally a musical created in 1957. This adaptation remains faithful to the original but it shows the visual evolution of American cinema. According to Variety, nearly 100 million dollars were spent on this film. There are nevertheless some differences:
- Firstly, the actors are young talents, some of whom are not well known.
- Secondly, the actors are not painted black to represent the Puerto Rican as in the first film. On the contrary, they are real actors of colour. So there is no "Blackfishing".
- Finally, we could see that the actress Rita Moreno who played Anita in the first film became Valentina in the second. Indeed, she replaces Doc, the local grocer who shelters Tony.


VIII. The character of Anita

The character of Anita, played by Ariana Debose, is a dual character. On the one hand, she loves Bernardo and feels very sad when he dies. On the other hand, she betrays the couple and is responsible for Tony's death because she lied and said that Chino had killed Maria. However, the actress is very talented, she dances, sings and acts very well. Indeed, she won Best Supporting Actress for West Side Story at the 2021 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards.

Thank you!





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