Anyone who enjoys cinematic fare that's off the beaten path will happily follow a zydeco-loving salt miner on a rejuvenating musical odyssey from Germany to Louisiana. Film festival award-winner Horst Krause stars as the t... more »aciturn, barrel-shaped Schultze, who is settling uneasily into retirement. He spends his drabby days in his small town polishing his garden gnomes, drinking with friends, visiting his mother in a nursing home, and playing traditional polkas on his accordion. At the 30-minute mark, Schultze, and the film, come to life when he hears zydeco on the radio and becomes enthralled in the music and the culture, going so far as to introduce his friends to such delicacies as jambalaya. .He performs zydeco at a music festival, scandalizing some of the locals. But his music club selects him to represent them in Texas at a sister city celebration, and Schultze's life takes unexpected detours. Fans of Jim Jarmusch and Aki Kaurismaki may find director Michael Schorr a kindred minimalist spirit with his long takes and deadpan sensibility. But Schultze Gets the Blues dances to its own quirky rhythms. While Schultze's journey comes to a downbeat conclusion, the film manages to end on a lovely grace note. --Donald Liebenson« less
Loved this movie! The main character is a retired, sweet, lovable German accordion player. He is a quiet, socially inept person. He never says much, but he is very touching and he has very good friends. He is also a surprisingly adventurous fella. He starts cooking Louisiana style dishes from a cooking program on TV and feeds them to his shocked friends who are about to be even more surprised when they find that his new love in music is Zydeko, which he learns by ear from the radio. This revelation is met with mixed reviews from the local patrons who are used to listening to German and Polish Oompah music. This does not deter him, however, as he launches into an overseas trip to Texas and Louisiana, where he shows the local experts how it's done German-style on an accordion.
This is a very slow-moving, mellow movie. The music is wonderful and so is seeing how Germans live in a small mining town. This movie is for people who like to delve a bit deeper into personalities and foreign flavors. People who like quick moving, action movies and spelled-out viewpoints may not take to this one.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Poignant and filled with gentle humor
E. Karasik | Washington, DC United States | 04/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This story of a retired German miner who becomes inspired to play zydeco music (instead of the traditional polka) on his accordion unfolds as delicately as a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. If you're the type of viewer who becomes impatient with subtle, real-time narrative, you might find it tedious. But this film is beautifully done, and even the very slow scenes are enhanced by droll sight gags and persuasive glimpses of emotion. Schultze's dreary northern German town, with its cast of mostly benign denizens, becomes utterly endearing, as are the characters Schultze encounters on his odyssey in search of zydeco. The film's great success is that we come to totally identify with the seeming "lumpenproletariat" of a protagonist as his gentle and poetic soul is revealed. While it is brilliantly grounded in minute details, the film works beautifully as an exploration of the individual's quest for self-realization and artistic expression. And indeed, though it keeps its focus modest and does not overtly address the "big questions," the film offers a more sophisticated meditation on spirituality than many others that try a lot harder."
A droll, poignant voyage of discovery.
Miles D. Moore | Alexandria, VA USA | 04/17/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Michael Schorr's "Schultze Gets the Blues" is a quiet, droll and unexpectedly poignant film that--like its protagonist--takes its own sweet time getting to its destination, but both the journey and the destination are hard to forget. Schultze (Horst Krause) is a bored, phlegmatic retiree and polka accordionist in an ugly, dull German mining town. One day, however, he hears a snatch of zydeco music over the radio, and from then on zydeco and the land of its birth--the Louisiana bayou country--become his twin obsessions. An invitation to a polka festival in Texas gives him the excuse he dreams of, and soon he's playing hooky from the festival, puttering into the bayous in a rented shrimp boat. "Schultze Gets the Blues" is reminiscent of "Stroszek," Werner Herzog's story of Germans lost in the vast strangeness of America, only much more benign. It is odd and asymmetrical (except for the matching shots at the beginning and end), never taking us precisely where we expect to go--kind of like life. Schorr makes Schultze a courtly, portly, lovable Everyman, and what begins as comedy ends as a moving tribute to the philosophy of Carpe Diem. "Schultze Gets the Blues," with its Teutonically deliberate pacing and schnapps-dry wit, is not for every taste. But those who are willing to follow Schultze and Schorr wherever they lead will be rewarded in the end."
This movie is never boring, superficial or pretentious.
Charles A. Cooper | Jacksonville, Florida USA | 12/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is never boring, superficial or pretentious. If you want boring, supeficial and pretentious just go see any of the Matrix sequels.
This film has also been described as a character study, but I think it is very much more than that. It the story of the quest, common to most people, to find something authentic within the all to often pointless conditions of modern life. The key images are the huge mountain of coal slag behind Shultze's garden and house and the repeated image of the silent, relentless windmill. The mountain of slag is the coal waste which Shultze has spend most of his existence mining and which will eventually cause his death from lung disease; the windmill represents the ceaseless passage of time, which is indifferent to how well or how poorly we spend our days between the beginning and the end which it provides for us. Together they point to the absurdity of his (and our) existence. The character Laurent shows the true way to live within this rather ruthless reality. She is a contrast to his catatonic mother, her roommate in the nursing home.
For whatever reason Cajun music quite suddenly touches something within Shultze and sparks his quest for something better; the rest of the film is about his rather uncertain journey to realize this odd hint of something authentic. What he finds along the way are good relationships, and many other people who are seeking, each in their own way, the same thing (e.g. the flamenco-dancing barmaid, the motorcross passions of his retired friend, the ill-tempered poet/switchman). Although Shultze is misunderstood sometimes, on the whole people are more helpful to him than hurtful. Eventually he finds a brief taste of the authentic life he is seeking, albeit just in time.
We see so few movies that actually try to quietly remind us of something important that we should try to appreciate them when they do come along. This is a great film, which is very cinematic, well directed and very consistent. The acting is so good it is hard to understand it as acting at all. It is sad that some who view this film will not understand it or how good it really is because their expectations of film are so conditioned by the hollywood blockbuster machine. Even more saddly, the very people who miss the point of movies like this one are those who most need to understand them. It finally comes down to a question of whether you think film should just distract us from our own absurdity, or actually help us find our way out of it."
Music is life, is magic
Wux Iapan | Zurich | 05/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm swiss, I do know the german mentality and culture very well, so this flick wasn't as alien to me as it must have been to many other people, and I'm also talking about the slow pacing and style of close intimate privacy that is very difficult and seldom to find this honest and real in US movies.
This flick has a lot to offer if you're the kind of watcher that is paying attention to the details. On the surface we watch an old man getting retired and fearing that the gap of loneliness in front of him will be his dead end road. The man is single and alone, but loneliness is also present when he's sitting in the middle of a crowd of people. When one evening, while tuning throught the radio channels, he gets to hear some few tones of a much faster accordeon music style, things begin to change in a surprisingly subtle way.
Something that seems very important to me is that you definetly do not have to like Polka music or US blues to watch this movie. In fact, it's pretty unimportant on that aspect but off course it surely helps if you're a fan. Anyway, this movie shows that there is music and rhytm in everyone, every single person has it and kinda applies to it, or does the rhythm apply to the person...? However, the german villians in the movie seem to function with 30 BPMs (beats per minute, so slow that close to standing still) as everything seems to have more weight, everything requires more time and energy than elsewhere, even ordering three beers in a boring pub is being executed with a minimum waste of energy, there's one hell of a lazy heart beat in everybody there and only some can overcome their mental walls to show signs of goodwill and true charity.
Now early on we come to learn that Schultze isn't an all too social guy: he only talks if absolutly necessary and by doing so he only names to most important facts, he almost bisects even the shortest phrase to an even shorter phrase, and he never smiles. This person is not much of a useful addition to the people there. If anyone could change anything, it surely wouldn't be Schultze to do so. That is until his own life rhythm is subtly changing due to the new musical influence. While Schultze keeps doing "his own thing" (that is playing solo accordeon, only faster this time) the people still tend to shake their heads as this "new stuff" is absolutly alien to them that cannot be accepted this easily. They show signs of excitment but need assurance afterwards, that he will "turn back to the old gold polka again, okay Schultze?" But then, there seems to be more than meets the eye (ear) as all of a sudden two fellows get invited to a tasty dinner - for the first time in 30 years.
Pay attention to the details and you will realize that there are new things going on in this man's life. He seems to have answered to an inner natural urge of enlarging his field of interests and perceptions. The accordeon club got invited to a german meeting over in the states. The members decide to send Schultze over there as a representative. What Schultze experiences over there is just enough to let him forget about that gap in front of him. He doensn't turn into a party goer, to be sure, but there's life coming back, excitment about spontaneously being invited to dinner by a black mother.
In the end, back in germany, they burry this man who had in the end found new sources of freedom to untie yourself from any compulsions of accepted loneliness and unsatisfying deadlocks.
During the final scene I felt sad about the ending. An old man had somehow found out he's got more mental wings in his mind than he would ever have imagined before, but why couldn't he have found these new sources earlier in his life? I thought the ending was too melancholic, but then, right before I started whining I payed more attention to the other members of his funeral: they were playing Schultze's faster accordeon style, additionally, a black umbrella was sometimes "dancing" between the others, a lady was moving her hips, an old man at the end of the queue was doing a pirouette etc. I'm sure they couldn't name the reasons about the subtle change in everyone's life rhythm, but exactly that has happened.
Schultze was gone, but his discovery had planted a seed. Music is life and this flick is just a very very sweet and realistic tale on that subject that you won't soon forget."
Watch Out for the Pace
John Sollami | Stamford, CT | 11/21/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"One simply can't dismiss as philistines all the reviewers here who wail about the boredom and slowness of this film. The film's pace is slow. The camera lingers on beautifully composed scenes, as if in love with itself for finding such a lovely frame. Such criticism is legitimate and points out a fault. Yet the story of the German accordian player Schultz, freshly put out to pasture with his buddies from their mining jobs, is unique and touching. Schultz himself is a big lump of a man, and a lump of a presence. When he finally has his moment of awakening to zydeco music and starts to play it, almost obsessively, I wanted to hear more. Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot more, even when Schultz finds himself smack in the middle of zydeco country. I really wanted him to find some band mates and go at it in earnest. That was my hope, but it was in vain. Nonetheless, Schultz's transformation from a polka-playing traditional kind of guy to an adventurous traveler finally enjoying his life to the very end makes for an interesting story, even with the frustrations that are built into it."