The S.B. International Film Festival’s The Wave French film festival opened and will close on musical notes: the Isabelle Huppert–starring Souvenir and Thursday night’s Django, about a very specific chapter in the life of Django Reinhardt, the legendary, two-fingered “Gypsy Jazz” genius. Music bios are a tricky business: Take on too much of a life and it becomes a blur; narrow to too small a slice of the life, and the sense of a life goes missing. Director Étienne Comar’s Django (which opened this year’s Berlin Film Festival) zeroes in on his mid-’40s period, with France under Nazi occupation and Roma camps under siege, sometimes to the detriment of powerful musical possibilities. Reda Kateb does a wonderful job in the title role (and with surprising veracity of fancy guitar finger work), but in a more ruminative and suffering state — given the harshly repressive, Nazi-thumbscrewed circumstances — rather than with the rogue-like swagger Reinhardt was known for earlier. The film delves into WWII intrigue and the Nazi persecution of the Roma, a vantage point not often seen on-screen. But the musical moments — persuasively provided by the gifted Dutch, Django-worshipping Rosenberg Trio — are abuzz with life, bravado, melancholy, and timeless resonance. We’ll have to wait for Django: The Early Years.
Django shows Thursday, October 5, 9:30 p.m., at the Riviera Theatre (2044 Alameda Padre Serra). Visit schedule.sbiff.org/wave.