Schultze Gets the Blues

Schultze Gets the Blues was an unlikely hit in Germany last year. Did anybody think that a minimalist comedy about a pudgy retiree with a love for zydeco would be a big hit? It's very reminiscent of other recent fare like The Man Without a Past and Kitchen Stories, both from further north and both wackier in their comedic intentions. Schultze is a very sweet movie, about a man who discovers a newfound love in his life after a forced early retirement from his longtime job at a salt mine. Schultze (Horst Krause, Klaustrophobie, Gripsholm) and his friends have a pretty uneventful life. They sit around all day, fishing, drinking in the bar, or tending their garden. They also belong to a traditional music club that has a sister city in Texas. They need to send one polka player over to the States to participate in an annual festival. The director wants Schultze to go, but he is reluctant.

Then one day, Schultze hears the enthralling sounds of zydeco coming from his radio. It changes his life. He picks up the tune easily, cooks jambalaya, and shocks everybody at his club when he decides to play this "jungle music" instead of the traditional polka. Of course Schultze decides to go to Texas, and makes a long side trip to Louisiana, where he can meet new friends and listen to great music. Again, it's all very sweet, and writer/director Michael Schorr stretches things out for maximum effect, but sometimes ends up with much less. There isn't much dialogue in the film, especially from Schultze. However, he is utterly polite and never comes off as mean. Schorr wants to show the monotonous routine that Schultze and his friends had. It was such that small things like a new waitress or new friend could really brighten them up. This is also to make people understand why zydeco has such a profound impact on Schultze. Here's this new irresistible music he hears; so vibrant and full of life.

Once he arrives in America, nearly everybody he meets there is as friendly as he is. He's completely on his own, exploring a new country and making some new friends. Schultze Gets the Blues feels almost episodic in nature, each one dealing with somebody new. The weakness in the film is that Schorr is so minimal that instead of sinking into the groove of the film, the lack of action draws the viewer out. If the film were perhaps half an hour shorter, this wouldn't have happened. Moreover, Schultze only plays one song. It's a great song, but even after he goes to the United States, there is not much of a variety to listen to. It is fun watching this film, and the Schultze character successfully comes off as a lovable bear, but there are too many times where Schorr could have added a bit more without sacrificing his desire for minimalism.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 54 minutes, German and English with English subtitles, Rated PG for mild language.

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