In his 1975 film And Now My Love, French director Claude Lelouch told the story of two individuals who fall in love at first sight. But to prove his contention that it takes a century to prepare for this miracle, Lelouch introduced us to two generations of their predecessors from each family.
His ambitions are very high in Bolero as well. Quoting Willa Cather "There are only two or three human stories and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as though they had never happened before" Lelouch tells the stories of four families of artists during a time frame from 1936 to the 1980s.
The film unfolds on three continents and includes vignettes of the Big band era in America before World War I, the rise of Hitler in Germany, the persecution of the Jews in France and their deportation to concentration camps, the Battle of Stalingrad, the Normandy landings, the liberation of Paris, and the cultural impact of these important events upon the future generations.
The four couples whom we meet in the 1930s are Glenn (James Caan), the leader of a big band, and his wife Suzan (Geraldine Chaplin); Simon Meyer (Robert Hossein), a pianist in the Follis Bergere troupe, and his wife Anne (Nicole Garcia), a violinist; Karl Kremer (Daniel Olbrychski), a German concert pianist, and his wife Magda (Macha Meril); and Boris (Jorge Donn), a Russian cultural official, and his wife Tatiana (Rita Poelvoorde), a ballet dancer.
Despite the fissures in the human community brought about by World War II, some of these individuals, their children and grandchildren are drawn together by art and humanitarian goals in 1980 for a Red Cross benefit. The show emanates from Paris and is beamed across the world by television. Performing are the Moscow ballerina's son a dancer who sought political asylum in the United States after a tour; the American band leader's daughter a singer; the former Nazi pianist now an orchestra conductor; and the Parisian violinist's grandson a rock and roll superstar.
Lelouch's point is that art (dance, music, song) is the universal language of hope, renewal and community. Bolero is a flawed film it is too long and too fragmented but nonetheless an important cinematic work which celebrates the human imagination as triumphant.