DP Janusz Kamiński ASC conjures up the razzle dazzle for Steven…
For those who are unfamiliar with the narrative, West Side Story is inspired by William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet. It takes place during the mid-1950s in the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, then a multi-racial, blue-collar neighborhood. The story, set to Bernstein and Sondheim’s original songs, explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds. The members of the Sharks, from Puerto Rico, are taunted by the Jets, a white gang. Tensions between the two crews rise when Tony, a former member of the Jets and the best friend of the gang’s leader, Riff, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks, and the feuding soon escalate into an all-out, deadly rumble between the adversarial gangs.
Spielberg’s West Side Story stars Ansel Elgort as Tony, and newcomer Rachel Zegler as Maria, with Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, and Rita Moreno in supporting roles. Moreno, who starred in the 1961 film adaptation, also served as an executive producer.
West Side Story represents Kamiński’s 18th consecutive feature film with Spielberg, over a span of 25 years, all but one of them (The BFG, 2016) shot using celluloid film. Kamiński earned Best Cinematography Oscars® for Schindler’s List (1993), his first title with the director, and Saving Private Ryan (1998), as well as six Academy nominations for his other films with Spielberg.
“Steven and I still use celluloid to make movies, as film emulsion has an incredible aesthetic ability to evoke nostalgia,” remarks Kamiński. “Additionally, the rhythm of the ‘take, cut and reload’ process is a familiar ritual, and we see no reason to work in any other way.”
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