Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Classic Scene #36

The undoubted highlight of West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's America is not only one of the most thrilling song and dance routines in cinema history it's also a better critique of the American immigrant experience than a library-full of academic tomes or well-meaning documentaries. 'Skyscrapers bloom in America, cadillacs zoom in America, industry boom in America, twelve in a room in America.' Beneath the fun it's scathingly sardonic, a switchblade cutting through the platitudes of the American Dream, capturing the giddy schizophrenia of the place, hypocrisy and hope locked in a perpetual dance. And yet, the sheer vitality of the music is like a metaphor, something thrillingly American born out of immigrant anger and desire, metabolised from it, people released from backwards lethergy, from stifling convention or political oppression, channelling, at last, all their wit and talent, their teeming energy, into this new place, capitalism's engine room.

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