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Synopsis Maria is a newly-arrived Puerto Rican girl whose brother heads a gang called The Sharks against the Caucasian gang called The Jets The rivalry between the gangs is in place from the beginning but it reaches a fever pitch when Maria falls for Tony the founder of the Jets at a local dance West Side Story is the classic tragedy of Romeo Juliet set in a modern setting The setting is the Upper West Side of New York City in the late 1950s with conflict between rival street gangs rather than families In the opening of the film during which nearly 15 minutes pass before a real line of dialogue is spoken contains some impressive overhead shots of NYC It is a breathtaking aerial shot of Manhattan from a birds eye view capturing the city with many of its recognizable landmarks as it moves steadily to the Upper West Side of Manhattan and then speedily zooms down and plunges into a concrete playground where an elaborate set of dances takes place as The Jets and The Sharks bicker over their territory readying themselves for a gang brawl The movie is based on the successful Broadway hit - a staged musical play of lovers that crossed racialethnic barriers juvenile delinquency and inner-city problems of the mid-twentieth century - in exhilarating musical and dance form West Side Story was the first musical I have watched that addresses the realities of life Usually musicals are cheerful far from reality its harshness But this movie explores both the senselessness of gang strife and the prejudice faced by immigrants in depth Still the approach to violence is unique and very appropriate for a musical West Side Story is bloodless in all scenes including the stabbing and gunshot scenes All the fights are divorced from reality since the characters dance around each other during stalking and attacking The choreography and music put a real sense of menace
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