****/**** Image A Sound A Extras B+
starring Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris
screenplay by Ernest Lehman, based on the play by Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins
directed by Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins
by Walter Chaw With apologies to Frank Zappa, Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise's West Side Story is dancing about the tumultuous social architecture of Manhattan's west side in the 1950s--a picture as political as it is ephemeral and, consequently, as timeless as it is exhilarating. It is one of those rare pictures that feels like the first time I've seen it every time I see it--renewing itself endlessly through its rare energy and meticulously choreographed nihilism. That it doesn't hold together particularly well as a drama, much of the emotional power of its doomed love affair sapped by Richard Beymer's amazingly bad performance as lead Tony, is secondary to the enduring effectiveness of the Leonard Bernstein score (with Sondheim's amazingly current lyrics and Saul Chapin's bright orchestration); Jerome Robbins's ebullient dance sequences; Rita Moreno and George Chakiris; and the revelatory location work and lighting design.