Marx and Freud Go to the Movies … and Nearly Ruin a Classic

 

My day back at the multiplex:

I saw the original “West Side Story” in the 1980s, and to me in my craven youth, it seemed kind of dorky, what with those skinny boys snapping their fingers and crooning Daddy-O, in a deeply un-ironic way. Not hip at all. But the music and dancing were glorious. And so I found myself today at the new “West Side Story” mouthing the words of classics like “One Hand, One Heart,” and even “Cool” with its toned-down Daddy-O’s, singing along softly enough not to disturb the four others in the theater, who I think were singing along too. The technology today is of course superior to the ‘80s, and conductor Gustavo Dudamel brings new richness and beauty to the score.

The singing and the dancing were exhilarating, heart-rending, and poignant, too. What else could come of a Sondheim/Bernstein musical? Yet somehow, director Stephen Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner manage to snatch greatness from a classic. Kushner, notoriously a polemicist, wrote“Angels in America,” a great play until intermission, after which he blamed the HIV epidemic entirely on Ronald Reagan, similarly lards down the dialogue here with lectures about identity politics, evil Caucasians, and just plain old crappy America. The actual story is no more about skin color or colonization than its source, “Romeo and Juliet.” The story of doomed love is eternal; why muck it up?

And Maria is no longer a naïve young girl, but bold and wise, so I don’t quite get how she can fall in love at a glance — fighting the patriarchy will not allow that. But such is wokester style, on the nose and rigidly didactic, in a work of art that is in no one’s imagination “realism.” I mean, gangbangers are singing and dancing on the streets of NY. I just hope activists like the LAUSD do not discover this movie.

Happily, one moment remains true and intact, “Officer Krupke,” sung by the Jets as they sit in jail. The song mocks the whole Marxist idea that crime is the result of poverty or of systematic whateverism. It could have been written by the Babylon Bee and is still hilarious and true 60 years later. Even the Jets know it’s a scam, and take every advantage to both work that angle and ridicule the believers. If the kids ask after the movie what it all means, tell them — about the old days, when people were independent moral beings, before the whole social work, psychology, homeless-industrial complex, genderism, and racialism movements did not yet exist.

“Cyrano,” on the other hand, is another love story about mismatched lovers but does not deliver its message with a sledgehammer. Not so politically ambitious and thus much more successful as a movie, not a lecture. (I saw it earlier in the day before WSS.) Tunes are nice, actors marvelous, dancing wonderful.

Finally, I was surprised to see a long-form GM “holiday” commercial before WSS started that featured a young woman restoring an old Chevy for her Dad. Yes, of course, it’s a woman restoring a car, but it was well done. When she surprises him on Christmas morning, he is awed. He turns to her and thanks her. She replies with love, “Merry Christmas, Dad.” She said it! Merry Christmas!

Thank you, GM, for stepping up. Even if you never mention the word in your TV ads.

Yet.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Patriciajay: If the kids ask after the movie what it all means, tell them — about the old days, when people were independent moral beings, before the whole social work, psychology, homeless-industrial complex, genderism and racialism movements did not yet exist.

    Beautiful.

    • #1
  2. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    A remake of West Side Story was ripe for being insufferably woke, so I just assumed from the get go that I would hate it.  I’ve heard mixed reviews.  The best that I heard was that it wasn’t as woke as it could have been.  Thanks for the review.

    • #2
  3. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):
    The best that I heard was that it wasn’t as woke as it could have been.

    This is great; my best laugh all day.

    My god, what are we doing?

    • #3
  4. Gary Robbins Member
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    One thing that I liked about the new West Side Story is that the ultimate villain was government in the person of Robert Moses who was busy knocking down homes in “slum clearance” to build The Lincoln Center.  The police lieutenant points out the fight between the Sharks and the Jets doesn’t make a lot of sense in that all of their homes were being knocked down, and high end housing was going to be built along with The Lincoln Center.  

    • #4
  5. Patriciajay Coolidge
    Patriciajay
    @Patriciajay

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    One thing that I liked about the new West Side Story is that the ultimate villain was government in the person of Robert Moses who was busy knocking down homes in “slum clearance” to build The Lincoln Center. The police lieutenant points out the fight between the Sharks and the Jets doesn’t make a lot of sense in that all of their homes were being knocked down, and high end housing was going to be built along with The Lincoln Center.

    Right! And go see CODA too, where the overbearing govt is the enemy.

    • #5
  6. Patriciajay Coolidge
    Patriciajay
    @Patriciajay

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):
    The best that I heard was that it wasn’t as woke as it could have been.

    This is great; my best laugh all day.

    My god, what are we doing?

    True. Just cover your ears for the detectives speech in the first part!

    • #6
  7. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Oh Jeez, you say that Gustavo MaleDud, I mean Dudamel, is conducting?  Just ruined it for me.  What a fake he is.  If he wasn’t Venezuelan and sexy he’d be eating out of a trash can like most of the countrymen he’s turned his back on.

    https://www.nationalreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/xml_20180402B_nordlinger.html

    I was at two of these unfortunate Carnegie Hall concerts, and I have since heard Mr D conduct the BSO once and the LA Phil twice, all in Symphony Hall, Boston, all to my displeasure.  How a conductor can do so poorly with such talent in front of him is beyond me.

    • #7
  8. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    I haven’t seen it.

    But the desire to remake a classic strikes me as emblematic of the hubris that characterizes our times.

    I doubt that seeing it will change my mind on that.

    • #8
  9. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Oh Jeez, you say that Gustavo MaleDud, I mean Dudamel, is conducting? Just ruined it for me. What a fake he is. If he wasn’t Venezuelan and sexy he’d be eating out of a trash can like most of the countrymen he’s turned his back on.

    https://www.nationalreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/xml_20180402B_nordlinger.html

    I was at two of these unfortunate Carnegie Hall concerts, and I have since heard Mr D conduct the BSO once and the LA Phil twice, all in Symphony Hall, Boston, all to my displeasure. How a conductor can do so poorly with such talent in front of him is beyond me.

    All instrumentalists are equal – why would you tell some to play louder and some to play softer? 

    • #9
  10. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    A remake of West Side Story was ripe for being insufferably woke, so I just assumed from the get go that I would hate it. I’ve heard mixed reviews. The best that I heard was that it wasn’t as woke as it could have been. Thanks for the review.

    That should be easy enough to fix. Any main character in the play could demand the police produce Trump’s tax returns, or the gang will be forced to take out the neighborhood.

    • #10
  11. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    I’m going to see it this weekend. I’ve listened to the soundtrack. It’s a good recreation of the original spirit, but it still feels like a simulacrum. The “Jet Song” made me wince, though; it doesn’t have the same spirit. In the 1961 movie, they got a guy to voice-double for Riff, maybe because Riff couldn’t sing the part – but the double is consistently sharp and misses a lot of the notes. It’s perfect and professional, and it makes the scene seem more real. The new guys sound like musical-theater actors.

    I wish there were cameos of the originals. Riff and Tony are still around, and active; both were great in the recent Twin Peaks reboot. And of course we are still blessed by the presence of Glad Hand, the social worker who kicked off the dance. 

    • #11
  12. Patriciajay Coolidge
    Patriciajay
    @Patriciajay

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    The new guys sound like musical-theater actors

    They really do. It’s very polished. But I thought Anita and Bernardo were a much more interesting couple than Maria and Tony. They weren’t burdened with so much…political correctness.

    • #12
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