Panorama | Spotlight on France
The dramatic facts of jazz-guitar great Django Reinhardt’s tragically brief life—his birth in a travelling caravan, his invention of "gypsy" jazz, his compositions for and recordings with Stéphane Grappelli and the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, his death from a brain hemorrhage at 43—are the stuff of legend. Writer Étienne Comar (Of Gods and Men) thus makes a daring directorial debut by confining this look at the legendary Reinhardt (played marvellously by A Prophet’s Reda Kateb) to a few soul-forging months during WWII when the musician had to make a choice: collaborate with the Nazis and go on a tour of Germany or face up to the facts he saw all around him—the genocide of the Romany and Sinti peoples at the hands of his Nazi "fans"—and resist.
Featuring some truly scintillating musical performances (by the great Dutch Manouche jazz band The Rosenberg Trio), Comar’s film is "a cauldron of hot jazz and cataclysmic history… To encompass Reinhardt’s huge cultural impact—as well as the overwhelming survivor’s guilt he must carry—is to make vivid both the strength and the suffering of his people… There’s an urgent impetus at the heart of this film, far beyond the realm of either flat period biopic or mere history lesson. Django takes on the perspective of what remains one of the most maligned ethnic groups of Europe. In so doing, it tells a story both triumphant and tragic."—Christina Newland, Sight & Sound
"Kateb [gets] the chance to shine in… [this] handsomely made affair with one of the best scores imaginable."—Peter Debruge,Variety