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February 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

It is a musical set in the 1940s, and it tells the story of a family’s escape from the Nazis, but it’s no Sound of Music. Rather, Django is an often gripping account of famed jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt’s last days in France in 1943, his callous — often brutal — intimidation by the Nazis (who nevertheless booked him and his Quintet of the Hot Club of France for performances), and his frustration-filled efforts to flee to neutral Switzerland. Feature films often take years to consummate from idea to screen, and Django was likely no exception, but its subject matter is 2017 timely. Reinhardt came from a family of gypsies, the Roma, who were ruthlessly persecuted by the Nazis during the war. At a news conference in Berlin, where Django opened the 67th Berlinale film festival on Thursday, first-time director Etienne Comer noted that “there are parallels with today’s refugees, with preventing certain people from traveling.” Oddly, those parallels were barely mentioned by reviewers attending the festival. Jordan Mintzer in the Hollywood Reporter noted that the film’s narrative offers “star Reda Kateb (A Prophet) the chance to shine in an impressively restrained performance.” Mintzer was not so impressed with the fictionalized plot which, he said, “feels closer to Inglourious Basterds than to the historical record.” Likewise Peter Debruge in Variety remarked that “there are moments when it could pass for a beigey, low-key “Inglourious Basterds.” Peter Bradshaw in Britain’s Guardian, while praising Kateb’s performance, nevertheless described the film itself as “high-minded and heavy-footed.” Jonathan Romney in Screen Daily also found much in the plot to complain about, calling the movie “a slow crawl.” Nevertheless, he observed, “musically, though, the film is a treat.” But Yannick Vely in the French daily Paris Match regarded the screenplay as “poignant,” remarking that “the intelligence of the script lies in the refusal to make heroic the figure of genius.” Kateb, Vely added, is “perfect in the title role.”