March 22, 2005 -- “Schultze Gets the Blues” is an amusing, poignant little film about the power of music and one man's quest to find his kindred spirits in a foreign land.
Schultze is a salt miner in the German state of Saxon-Anhalt who finds little inspiration in retirement. He likes to play his accordion, but the traditional polka music of his father doesn't really move him anymore. He still fishes and drinks beer with his old friends, but he has lost his zest for life. Then one day he hears zydeco music on the radio and he is captivated by it. Once he starts to play it he can't go back to his traditional German music anymore. He plays it for his friends, but none of them understand the music and are mystified by the change in Schultze. He gets the same stunned, silent reaction from the residents of a local nursing home where he plays. His friends beg him to play the old songs again, but his soul has been captured by the music of the Cajuns and creole traditions half a world away. He even learns to cook Cajun food. It seems he has found something to spice up his life.
When Schultze plays zydeco music at the local music club’s 50th anniversary bash instead of the polka music he was supposed to play, most of the audience sits in stunned silence afterward.
Schultze's friends not only applaud his efforts, they get him a ticket to Texas for their sister city’s annual German music festival. They instinctively know that Schultze needs to find his new musical roots. Schultze uses the trip to explore the nearby Louisiana bayous, seeking those who share his zydeco soul. He is befuddled when he encounters German music and even a German-Czech band. The band gives him a ride so he can get more fuel for his boat. Schultze enjoys a lot of southern hospitality in Texas and Louisiana, before he finally finds what he is looking for, people who share his love of zydeco music, and who can play it.
Horst Krause gives a powerful, subtle performance as Schultze. Krause is a popular veteran German actor whose low-key performance in this low-key movie is fun to watch. His quiet determination in his musical quest gives the film an unexpected emotional punch. This film is very slow moving, but is rewarding for patient viewers. The technique of cinematographer Axel Schneppat seems similar to that of famed Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu. He often leaves his camera still and allows the action to flow across the frame. A very deliberate approach for a deliberate film. This film rates a B.
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