‘Django’: Life — And Music — During Wartime

Though overall, a disappointment – I’m glad I finally got to see Django, which just hit my local cable movie offerings. I’ll first ac-cent-uate the positive, and say actor Reta Kateb makes a dashing Django Reinhardt. I’ll add  that close-ups of Ketab’s guitar fingering is as impressive as … well, Sean Penn’s, anyway. I can forgive even the amount of fabrication in the screenplay. But, by the time Django with his gypsy bandmates and family are planning their escape from Nazi-occupied France in 1943, the movie just seems to run out of gas. (I’d say run out of heart, but the movie’s never has much of that to begin with.) The movie did make me pull out my Django recordings and listen to Minor Swing, Nuages, (the unofficial anthem of the French Resistance) and Sweet Georgia Brown. And that’s always a good thing.

Read the LA Times Review below:

In German-occupied France, guitarist Django Reinhardt (Reda Kateb) awakens to the horrors inflicted upon his people in this musically accomplished but “oversimplified, underfed and overburdened” film.

A bar fight breaks out during a pivotal scene in Django, the musically crisp yet mournful new wartime drama by Étienne Comar. As the fracas unfolds, the band keeps playing, with a blithe bemusement that seems to say: This happens all the time. But these are far from normal times.

The leader of the band is Django Reinhardt, the incomparably gifted Romani jazz guitarist, soulfully embodied by the French-Algerian actor Reda Kateb. He’s biding his time in the French Alps during German occupation, hoping for stealth passage across Lake Geneva into Switzerland. One of the men throwing punches is a Nazi solider, which means the inevitable: a lineup, a lockup and the sternest of warnings. Reinhardt is no good, it would seem, at laying low.

Kateb studied the guitar for a year to prepare for this role, and his work is evident: There’s an unstudied naturalism to the flicker of his fingers across the fretboard, and the film perks up whenever music is playing [ . . . ]

Read Full Review at: ‘Django’: Life — And Music — During Wartime

Verlaine’s Chanson d’automne

“Chanson d’automne” (“Autumn Song”) is a poem by Paul Verlaine, one of the best known in the French language. It is included in Verlaine’s first collection, Poèmes saturniens, published in 1866 (see 1866 in poetry). The poem forms part of the “Paysages tristes” (“Sad landscapes”) section of the collection

Poem: “Chanson d’Automne” by Paul Verlaine

Charles Trenet “Verlaine”
The legendary French crooner Charles Trenet added music to Verlaine’s poem and recorded the song twice, first in the early 1940’s and again in the 1950s with a slower arrangement adding a string section. Here’s the original jazz version.

Word War II Resistance Code
The song’s lyrics include the line “les sanglots longues des violons de l’automne blessent mon coeur d’un langueur monotone” which translates as “the long sobs of the violins of autumn wound my heart with a monotonous languor”.
These words were used in 1944 to form the code phrases that alerted the Resistance to the Allied invasion of France, and were depicted in the earlier epic World War II movie The Longest Day (1962).