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Worth A Look: 42.86%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 4.76%
Total Crap: 4.76%

2 reviews, 9 user ratings

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Schultze Gets the Blues
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by Chris Parry

"I guess there's *something* good about the American south..."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2004 VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: What dreams have you ever followed? What have you done with your life that people will one day look back on with envy? Where have you been? What have you seen? If the answer to those questions is 'none', then you may well find a lot in common with Schultze, a laid off German miner being forced to end his working life ten years early, with nothing to show for it at home, at work, or in the bank. Schultze plays the accordion, though he always plays the same polka songs - the same songs his father insisted he play as a child. See, Schultze has lived a life of dreariness that has been set for him by others, and now, with time to think, he's realizing that his 'life' has been anything but.

German indies are undergoing a real renaissance, and that's a great thing because German filmmaking has always led the way in the world of cinema. Even when the nation was better know for propaganda films than narrative work, it was respected for the outstanding artistry behind them. Schultze Gets The Blues is not a film that will go down in the annals of history as something on a par with the best work of Fassbinder or Marnau or Reifenstahl, but it may well prove more important to the German cinema than any before it. This is a film that is, for all intents and purposes, small. But it is also a film that has an abundance of heart, a real sense of wonder about the world, and a surrealist sense of humor that keeps the smile wide on the faces of the audience.

Schultze (German character actor Horst Krause) has been a miner since forever. With his pot belly and rickety bicycle, he has been a familiar face on the 'Saxon Anhalt' East German landscape since he was a child. He has seen great changes in his world over the years, but one thing has always remained constant throguh those changes - Schultze himself. He has no wife, he has two friends, he eats the same thing he's always eaten, drinks the same beer he's always drank, he takes the same route to work and back, and he plays the accordion once every year at the annual music night.

That is, until a chance meeting with a flemanco dancing barmaid coincides with Schultze accidentally hearing some Cajun Zydeco music on his radio. At first, Schultze switches the racket off, but something about it sticks in his head, and before too long he's listening to it all day, practicing the tunes he hears, cooking jumbalaya and saving like crazy for a trip to America to find where this noise comes from.

Along the way, his now unemployed buddies are perplexed as to what is going through his head, and those at the music recital are outraged at what they perceive as 'N-word' music, but the one agreeable ear Schultze has, the strange foreign barmaid, gives him the steel to make a life change. What follows is a change in pace for the film, as it switches to near documentary format as the protagonist lands in America and quickly decides to go walkabout, taking off on a stolen boat to find the meaning of it all.

The American deep south is often portrayed by filmmakers in the US, but rarely portrayed in a positive light. That it takes a German with a camera and an overweight polka-playing coal miner to discover the real culture of the American south is something that perhaps the nation's filmmakers should take to heart and ask themselves some questions about. That half an hour of Schultze wandering the swampland is a better travelogue than anything put to film by the native industry over the last ten years, is testimony not just to Krause's likeable portrayal of Schultze, but also to Micheal Schorr's abilities as director.

Schultze Gets The Blues has precious little to say in dialogue, and plenty of those in the film seem to not so much be saying lines, but being themselves, which all combines to give the film a realism that gives the thing real heart and soul. But while the words are not plentiful, there is a whole lot spoken, and anyone who would say there's nothing worth exploring in the American deep south need look no further than a portly German polka player and a stolen boat to find that they're wrong.

It will never be an Oscar winner, and it will never be on 3000 screens (or even 500) in the US, but that's a shame as Schultze Gets The Blues is one of those rare quiet pleasures that leave you far more relaxed (yet energized) for having had the experience. Now, what were you saying about those dreams you've never followed?

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originally posted: 10/19/04 07:26:28
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Boston Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Boston Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/04/07 Joey Langlinais Folksy and warm. Schultze reminds me of any old man in this town 4 stars
1/08/07 Phil M. Aficionado It was a joy, a simple pleasure; quirky, warm, insightful; like folk art and zydeco itself 4 stars
12/02/06 dr fine I could not stop thinking about this film for days after I watched it. Just beautiful. 5 stars
9/20/05 millersxing All he needed was a nickname like "Riverboat Schultze" and he'd be a blues legend! 5 stars
8/25/05 Schulze is too a dull man, in a mildly pleasant, but dull film. 2 stars
7/05/05 Dave Witham A wonderful film about personal transformation by pursuing an impulse 5 stars
3/28/05 Ira Shull Terrific movie! But if you've got ADD, don't bother. You'll be squirming in your seat. 5 stars
3/06/05 felice zensius boring, boring, boring 1 stars
12/15/04 Larry Moffett I enjoyed it from beginning to end, a quirky, amusing film with an endearing main character 4 stars
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  18-Feb-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 30-Aug-2005



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