Known to many as the father of ‘Gypsy Swing’, Django (Reda Kateb) reached the pinnacle of his success during the Second World War, playing to packed out crowds on a regular basis, wowing audiences in Paris alongside the Quintette du Hot Club de France. He was renowned not only for his innovation in his genre, but for his ability to play with just two fingers, having burnt his hand in a fire. Given his Romani ethnicity, Django was a target for the Nazis, though not one they were willing to persecute, for high-ranking officers were ardent fans of his work, and were adamant he played at several shows for the German officers. Caught somewhere between his head and his heart, he also struggled to find a happy medium between keeping his wife happy, as well as maintaining his affair with Louise de Klerk (Cécile De France).
The film Django, and much like the eponymous protagonist himself, has an unwavering commitment to the music, with several protracted sequences featuring live performances, which prove to be the most absorbing moments within this picture, as it becomes almost impossible not to tap your feet. But such is the tedious execution of the narrative, even the aforementioned scenes struggle to ignite any sense of excitement and vigour from the viewer. This lack of emotional investment is most detrimental, and evident, in the sheer lack of suspense, as given the nature of this narrative, particularly during the latter stages when Django is left to evade capture from the Nazis, it’s takes some doing to be so bereft of intensity.
On a more positive note, Ketab turns in an accomplished display as the lead, as an underrated actor who rarely disappoints. But it’s not enough to save this endeavour, which falls into the trap of becoming a generic, by the numbers biopic that fails to have an emotional impact, in spite of seemingly profound tale being told. There’s one moment when the musician turns to his partner and requests a trip to the pictures, because, as he puts it, “I want to dream”. I just wonder if they’d let me tag along and go with them, because I’m certainly not getting my fix here.