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Django: A Film As Much About History and Culture as About A Musical Icon

Victor L. Schermer By

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Jazz was an important source of liberation for Europeans, a way of being free of constraints and doctrine. It was also a way to enjoy life and forget the immanent dangers surrounding daily life. The film effectively weaves the music into the story, for example accentuating Reinhardt's mood changes as he vacillates between an intense and conflicted love affair and a deep affection for his wife. In another context, Reinhardt and his group are forced to perform at a dinner party for the Nazis. They start out by performing soft, uncontroversial background music required by the Nazi authorities, but soon pick up the pace. The party-goers love dancing to it, but, as the music becomes more "jazzy" and erotically tinged, the civilian authority figure calls a stop to it, leading to a chaotic situation from which Reinhardt must escape. The scene is a graphic illustration of how music and political realities interact. African Americans experienced their own interactions between music and political agendas during the Civil Rights movement.

In short, Django, Comar's first shot at directing (his past work has been as producer and screenwriter), succeeds admirably in conveying an important story about music, relationships, culture, and strife during the Nazi occupation of France. Emphasizing Reinhardt's call to take a moral stance almost in spite of himself, it explains why he became a culture hero. In so doing, the film relegates to a parenthetical back story the musical world of Paris and eventually America in which Reinhardt was immersed and played such an important role. There's a whole other Django that we don't see or hear. But, to be fair to Comar, that would be a whole other film.

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