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Swinging with Django

23 Aug 2021

One of the true geniuses of jazz music was Django Reinhardt and while there are copious recordings of his guitar greatness, precious little archive film survives. I had not previously been aware of any kind of biographical film on this troubled, even tricky character, before Django.

Forget the 1960s spaghetti western of the same name, this is a 2017 French film about the gypsy jazz legend and his escape from Paris under the Nazis. The Romany people, of course, suffered greatly under the Nazis. This film, directed by Etienne Comar in his directorial debut, is based on ‘Folles de Django’, a novel by Alexis Salatko, who co-scripted the film with Comar.

Django is played by Reda Kateb who maybe doesn’t have the rakish good looks of the guitarist but it was a good performance, and the test of any film about a musician is whether you end up worrying about whether it looks like he is really playing his instrument. I didn’t, on the whole, and when you consider that the real Django could use only two fingers on his left hand, it was not straightforward.

The music sounded right too. The suffering of the gypsies, while clearly illustrated, was not overdone, I would guess intentionally, and it was gripping as well as entertaining. I don’t know how close to fact it was, but that doesn’t matter.

Before the film, a young guitar duo called Balcon Manouche played a well-received set of gypsy jazz. I was just thinking that I would have liked to hear their version of Minor Swing, a Django classic, and they did as an encore, leaving me happy. See below for their full set on the Cinema YouTube page.

The next day was back to education and a look at the later, European work of Dirk Bogarde. The talk, Bogarde & the Europeans, was given by the Bogarde’s biographer John Coldstream, and by the actor’s nephew, Brock Van den Bogaerde. It was fascinating stuff, with great examples of his work, anecdotes and insight.

You can hear an interview with Coldstream on the March 2021 edition of the Chichester CineFile podcast at https://anchor.fm/Chichester-Cinema.

CLICK HERE to listen to the Chichester CineFile Podcast

Sandy Guthrie, from the Chichester CineFile podcast