THE BERLINALE OPENS WITH ALL THAT JAZZ
La La Land may have been about a young man seeking to stay true to his passion for classical jazz, but the film that opens the Berlin Film Festival — the Berlinale — tonight is about classical jazz itself, or more accurately a classical jazzman, Django Reinhardt. There may have been precious little jazz in La La Land, which has received an astounding 14 Oscar nominations, but in director Ettienne Comar’s Django the Dutch jazz band Rosenberg Trio recreates the music of the French guitarist with high fidelity. It’s also no fizzy attempt to mimic the feel of the Hollywood musicals of the 1940s, although it’s set in the ’40s, when the Nazis are consolidating their victories over most of Europe, and it tells of Reinhardt’s audacious efforts to escape from them as they began rounding up “gypsies” like himself and booting them into concentration caps. At a news conference introducing the members of the competition jury earlier today, jury president Paul Verhoeven voiced the plea to his fellow jury members to avoid discussions of politics and focus instead on the artistic quality of the films being presented during the competition. But politics may be difficult to sidestep these days. After all, Berlin was once the Nazi capital, and it will be difficult to watch Django in this city tonight without thinking about refugees from today’s tyrannies who are desperately seeking safety in unknown lands, including the U.S.