Immersed in Blu-ray: St. Louis, West Side Story

Vincente Minnelli’s masterful Meet Me in St. Louis (Warner Home Video) arrives on Blu-ray just in time for the holidays. It’s my favorite of Minnelli’s musicals (the first of the movie genre to dramatically integrate music into the emotional fabric of the story). The Technicolor looks stunning in HD, as we progress throughout the seasons, going from the heat of summer and the beauty of spring, right on through spooky Halloween and chilly Christmas. It all coincides with the emotional ups and downs of the middle class Smith family and culminates with Garland singing the melancholy “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to the scene-stealing Margaret O’Brien.

Then something miraculous happens, of course, when O’Brien, in a fit of rage, decapitates her snowmen because the family’s relocating to New York. It’s brilliantly shot in close-up from her innocent point of view. But there’s no place like home and the 1904 World’s Fair arrives as the harbinger of a new beginning. The circle of life, indeed.

By contrast, the arrival of the Oscar-winning West Side Story in a gorgeous and 50th anniversary Blu-ray set (Fox/MGM Home Ent.) represents a stylization of a different sort, in which both song and dance express emotional states of mind in this Romeo & Juliet of the street.

I still think The Sound of Music is Robert Wise’s musical masterpiece, but this comes a close second in a powerful and poetic adaptation of the Bernstein/Sondheim Broadway smash. The loss of innocence circa 1960 in New York City anticipates the violent destruction that would rip the hearts out of a nation coming to grips with race relations. Jerome Robbins’ choreography steals the show, though, in this large-format sensation that sounds as great as it looks in the home theater. It captured the zeitgeist of the era and certainly has its roots in hip-hop and beyond. Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer have no right to be as good as they are, and best supporting Oscar winners George Chakiris and Rita Moreno are unforgettable.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Blu-ray, Home Entertainment, Movies, Music, Oscar

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