Django (NR)

Drama 117 min. January 12, 2018
By Alan Scherstuhl
Late in Django, a proudly fictionalized improvisation upon the theme of Django Reinhardtness, the world's most famous gypsy-jazz guitar virtuoso gets told by a Nazi what he and his combo can and can't play at the 1943 concert they've been coerced into performing for France's occupiers. No blues, of course -- none of what the Nazis call "monkey music." Reinhardt (played with electric diffidence by Reda Kateb) is to avoid allegros and prestos, eschew extended solos. As a film viewer, of course, you understand what's happening: Our hero is being given the chance, via the swinging power of his art, to triumph over fascism. Later, at the gig, his music will have the swells of the Reich carrying on like the vacationing Jews in the Catskills basements of Dirty Dancing.

Like Reinhardt playing that party in Thonon-les-Bains, on the border between France and Switzerland, Django director Etienne Comar refuses the limitations imposed on him. His film, a sort-of biopic, spares us the shopworn scenes familiar to the genre, zeroing in instead on Reinhardt and the Reich, with the guitar player, already famous, trying to get himself out of Nazi-controlled France. Comar establishes the stakes immediately, with a striking, almost fabulistic sequence of Roma musicians playing beguiling melodies in the woods -- and being hunted down.

So, Django becomes a not-bad caper-thriller, a cloak-and-dagger-and-guitar adventure with individual scenes, some of them excitingly suspenseful, that have little to do with actual incidents. But they have everything to do with the way Reinhardt's joyously polyglot music challenged the "artistic purity" of fascism and actually inspired the Resistance -- his fleet, fluid runs kill fascism dead.
Etienne Comar Reda Kateb, Cécile De France, Antoine Laurent, Aloïse Sauvage, Maximilien Poullein, Gabriel Mirété, Hugues Jourdain, Ulrich Brandhoff, Alex Brendemühl, Esther Comar Etienne Comar, Alexis Salatko Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier Under the Milky Way

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