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Schultze Gets the Blues

Another seriously overhyped foreign/indie release, Schultze Gets the Blues (2005) is a nice, well-photographed, extremely slow-moving film in which not a lot happens. What does happen, though, is pleasant enough — if, that is, you have the patience for it. Schultze (Horst Krause) is a recently retired miner whose avocation, like that of his father before him, is that of a polka-playing accordionist. Unmarried, living in a tiny shack of a house on the outskirts of his small German town, retirement for Schultze is painfully tedious and consists mainly of commiserating with fellow retirees Manfred (Karl Fred Muller) and Jurgen (Harald Warmbrunn) about just what the heck they're going to do with the rest of their lives. One evening, Schultze stumbles across some zydeco music on the radio and becomes obsessed with this new way of playing the accordion — so obsessed that he visits his doctor to find out if something's wrong with him (to his credit, the doctor assures Schultze that changing one's taste in music isn't a medical condition). Getting little support from his music club for his new interest, Schultze nonetheless wins the right to represent them at a festival in the town's American sister city in Texas, giving Schultze a chance to visit the homeland of his new favorite musical style. All of this, in another film, would be exposition taken care of in the first act, but Schultze Gets the Blues is about the journey, not the destination. Like the languid, road-trip movies of Jim Jarmusch or Alexander Payne's 2002 About Schmidt, the story is primarily anecdotal as the mostly silent Schultze masters the zippy zydeco number he heard on the radio, follows advice from a cooking show to make jambalaya, and works a number of odd jobs to earn airfare to Louisiana, only to see the price go up when he comes back to buy his ticket. Schultze is a small, charming, warm, and utterly forgettable little film, with writer/director Michael Schorr tossing in bits of wry, oddball humor (a flamenco dancing waitress, a Goethe-quoting train-crossing guard) to break up his slow-moving character study-slash-travelogue. Not a bad film, but not a great one — the excitement that Schultze feels when he samples that spicy zydeco never really translates to Schorr's exceptionally slow-moving story. Paramount's DVD offers an excellent anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) of this really very good-looking film, with good contrast and terrific color. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, in German with optional English subtitles, is equally good — although this really isn't a very dynamic film, sound-wise, so not a lot is needed here. On board is a commentary track with Schorr (in German with English subtitles), in which he calmly describes his directorial choices, most surrounding the use of static imagery to illustrate the tedium of Schultze's life. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor



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