Dramatic Musical: The Bolero

DATELINE:  Best Short Film 1974 Oscar

Mehta

Winning the Best Short Subject Oscar for 1974, The Bolero may be one of the most breathtaking documentaries about music put on film.

From its opening scenes, setting up chairs for musicians of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, to its climax, you will have a deep appreciation for the challenge and creativity of symphony orchestras.

Most people know Ravel’s “Bolero” from the Walt Disney animated classic, as the music that portends the end of the dinosaurs. Or, worse, you may recall Bo Derek.

At first you have violinists, bassoonists, and flutists, all making mention of the difficulty of small solos in the overall performance. Behind them you hear the occasional melody from the piece.

Zubin Mehta was young and dynamic as the conductor, expressive and humorous. He notes after this performance of the Los Angeles Philharmonic he never wants to do The Bolero ever again. His tongue is firmly in cheek.

Drama always builds slowly, and if Mehta has any real challenge here, it is in keeping the pace of the music in check.

When the orchestra begins to play the entire score, you see them lit against a satin black background—and you are faced with fierce concentration from individual players as they read their music, look up to the conductor, and listen to their colleagues in the symphony. It mirrors any struggle Jack London ever described in Nature.

Mehta plays a conductor as you always expected one to be. When he is in full charge, his face shows how much he loves music, art, and helps director Alan Miller create something so special that 45 years later, you will be thrilled and delighted by the 25-minute experience.

 

 

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