Adam Lee Davies


Django – first look review

A nimble-fingered movie biopic of the ace guitar picker who entertained the Nazis opens the 2017 Berlinale.

It’s Paris. 1943. Under German occupation. Fun times, or at least for some. Swing-jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt may be of Romani descent – a people not much beloved by Herr Hitler – but his expressive, explosive bebop quintet are wowing the Nazi elite, as well as the well-heeled Frenchies, so he is all but untouchable. But such privilege comes at a price, and when Reinhardt is invited to tour Germany and entertain the Deutsche troops, he discovers a twinge of conscience that is located very near his survival bone. Which way to jump?

Étienne Comar’s wonderful biopic traces Django as he slowly realises that art is a commodity, that no man is an island and circumstances rule men; men do not rule circumstances. Which all makes Django sound a little bleak. It is, however, a stone delight. Every biopic lives and dies by its lead performer (cf: Val Kilmer in The Doors) and, here gold is uncovered.

Looking every inch the Gallic Warren Oates (just imagine!), Reda Kateb is truly hypnotic as the jazz-handed maestro. He is no more or less than a human person: no huge emotional landslides, no sail-swagging realisations, no Vaseline-lensed moments of movie clarity. Just a man who is forced to grow up a little as a result of history’s cruel eruptions. He may not even know that a change has taken place, but we do.

It’s not all plain sailing. The first half of the film is a mite baggy, and a Rififi/Mission: Impossible caper toward the end stretches credulity a little. But the music – overseen by Nick Cave’s chief Bad Seed, Warren Ellis – is entrancing, the performances nicely contained and the scenes where Django reconnects with his extended gypsy family are not (wholly) given over to bullshit movie romanticism.

Warren Oates would love this film – which is the best review one could give.

Published 12 Feb 2017

Tags: Berlin Film Festival

Suggested For You

Wild Mouse – first look review

By David Jenkins

Josef Hader’s mid-life meltdown comedy has just enough madcap laughs for it to pass muster.

The Dinner – first look review

By Adam Lee Davies

Cinema dictates that movie dinner dates are supposed to go bad. This Berlinale competition entry carries on that tradition.

I Saw the Light

By David Jenkins

Tom Hiddleston showcases his flexibility as a performer by slipping into the boots of country troubadour Hank Williams.


Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.