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Django Review

Listen To The Music

Jean Django Reinhardt is regarded by many as the greatest European-born jazz musician, ever. A gypsy, who was born in a trailer in Belgium, in 1910, Django went on to perform with some of the all-time greats, including Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, and was regularly accompanied by violinist Stephane Grappelli.

The two of them formed the Quintette du Hot Club de France, in 1934. They were among the first to play jazz featuring the guitar as the lead instrument. This notion of a guitar in front was frowned upon by jazz elitists for many years afterwards.

Etienne Comar's "Django" is a valiant attempt to portray Reinhardt's entire life, short as it was, as he died at a mere 43. He was felled by a stroke while walking home from one of his performances. The problem is that everything feels a little bit wedged into 92 minutes, especially because there are so many aspects to his story that many of them could fill an entire feature-length film. That said, there's a lot worthwhile here, because Django's life was so remarkable.

The opening scene is entirely gripping and a bit of a misdirection in style. In the Ardennes Forest, a community of gypsies is gunned down, one at a time by Nazi soldiers. Innocents just sitting around have bullets fly into their faces, killing them on the spot. The feeling is that the rest of "Django" will also be sudden, violent, bloody, and likely filled with revenge.

It's none of these things. It's about Django Reinhardt's struggles as an artist, with a bit of political intrigue in the background. There's nothing wrong with that, other than the first scene being by far the most chaotic, making the rest feel a bit too tame by comparison.

Reinhardt is apolitical, but when you're in Europe during World War II, it's tough to avoid Nazi intrusions. The Nazis want Reinhardt to tour Germany to perform for them. To him, it's more of a personal hassle than something he finds particularly objectionable. Everything is a hassle to him, other than playing his guitar, getting drunk, and fishing. He actually prefers drinking and fishing to the guitar, sometimes.

There is one great thing about "Django", and that's the music. I couldn't help but go out and purchase some of Django Reinhardt's music after watching the film, and the music is reason enough to recommend it. The story jumps around a lot and there is only a bit of character development to speak of, but the music is awesome. Go, and if you don't like what you see, you can shut your eyes and listen to the music.

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