Guillermo del Toro praises stunning shot from ‘West Side Story’

Image via Amblin Entertainment

On March 27, Guillermo del Toro will be going head-to-head at the Academy Awards with Steven Spielberg, as both legendary directors have a movie nominated for Best Picture this year.

But, if del Toro is feeling competitive, he didn’t show it on Twitter when he took the time to single out Spielberg’s direction and camerawork in his remake of the movie musical West Side Story.

west side story

Del Toro, whose own remake of the 1947 classic Nightmare Alley has been drawing rave reviews, retweeted user Shane Anderson’s excerpt of a long take from West Side Story that takes the viewer from a high school’s hallway to its gymnasium, capturing Justin Peck’s choreography without cutting away to a reaction shot.

In the days of filmmaking before digital editing made hiding cuts seamless, a long take took a lot of planning and rehearsal, with multiple frustrating takes before a usable shot was filmed. Notable auteurs who pulled this cinematic trick off include Martin Scorsese with Goodfellas, Robert Altman’s The Player, and perhaps most celebrated, Orson Welles’ opening shot of Touch of Evil.

So it’s no surprise that del Toro would celebrate Spielberg’s achievement, saying, “Extremely hard to execute. Pure, masterly clockwork precision and a lot more complex than “seamed” shots or steadicam-to-crane “relay” shots.  Baffling, virtuoso-  but one of so, so many shots that make the camera “dance” with each musical number.”

Although West Side Story underperformed at the box office, in a COVID year when only blockbusters like Spider Man: No Way Home and the Fast and Furious family seemed to bring audiences to theaters in record numbers, film fans will get the chance to judge Spielberg’s musical on March 2 when it hits Disney Plus.