JWR Articles: Film/DVD - The Wound | Django (Directors: John Trengove, Etienne Comar) - January 16, 2018

The Wound | Django

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Reviewed at the 2018 edition of the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
A pair of thought-provoking dramas

The Wound (Inexba)
John Trengove
88 mins, 2017
Four stars

What happens on the mountain stays on the mountain

Seeing Trengove’s tale of “secret” (nothing is really secret in this world of ours for some time now) circumcision, allowing South African boys to suddenly become men—once their foreskins have been brutally sliced off—can’t help but evoke similarities with fraternity hazing, #MeToo and—in a stunning reversal—a kind of KKK for the homosexual (even though all initiates and their “caregivers” are black).

The three principals carry the film from the opening scenic falls to the closing falls from grace. Perpetually bored with his factory job, Xolani (a gritty, courageous performance from Nakhane Touré) makes an annual pilgrimage to the scene of his own non-sanctioned procedure, helping the new recruits through the anguish and pain of this barbaric tradition.

Vija (superbly brought to duplicitous life by Bongile Mantsai) shared Xolani’s rite of passage years ago but also—soon thereafter—his bed. The two men have adopted a “same time next year” approach, giving their mountain treks more purpose than just helping boys become men. Xolani remains single while Vija is the “proud”, deceitful father of three girls. (When the two men couple, it is clear that the married man views his unattached friend as little more than a whore with a penis; and in the tradition of Somerset Maugham’s moth-to-the-flame characters, Xolani keeps coming back for another helping of rough treatment).

The tension between the two men is most certainly fuelled, then exploded by “rich city boy” (most initiates are from small towns and villages) Kwanda (a finely nuanced outing—in more ways than one—thanks to the sultry good looks and considerable acting chops of Niza Jay).

If there’s any fault to find it is that the writing trust (Trengove, along with Malusi Bengu and Thando Mgqolozana) try to address so many issues (homosexuality, race, financial disparity, infidelity, “secret” initiations, sex without love…) that some viewers might come away more overwhelmed than enlightened.

Nonetheless, a viewing is highly recommended if for no other reason than to understand that foibles of the human experience are just as common on the “dark” continent as anywhere else on the planet. JWR

Etienne Comar
117 mins, 2017
Three and one halfstars.

When music’s charms cannot soothe the savage breast

Here is a fanciful reimagining of jazz legend Jean “Django” Reinhardt’s wartime years when living in Paris—due to the Nazi occupation—it seemed prudent to leave the country for safer domains such as Switzerland.

Comar’s screenplay (based on the book by Alexis Salatko, who also helped with the script) doesn’t really ring true: especially with some of the Germans’ musical restrictions for the climactic concert (covering an escape by an English airman, no less) notably: “no solos longer than five seconds,” which turns out to be as laughable as it was unenforceable.

In the title role, Reda Kateb does a commendable job playing the chain-smoking guitarist but didn’t even try to be anywhere near believable as a conductor in the closing Requiem for Gypsy Brothers.

Cecile de France as the mysterious Louise de Klerk is adept at switching on the smouldering harlot, conniving “fixer” or petulant lover at will. Bimbam Merstein is a model of feisty mother-with-nothing-to-lose in her portrayal of Django’s mom.

So forget the plot, but do take a look/listen for the not-quite-generous-enough music tracks—hands down the highlight of the production, reminding one and all just what an incredible talent the Belgian Romani was. JWR

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