I have never felt such compassion for a portly, German, retired salt-miner that plays a mean polka piano-accordion. Of course I’ve never encountered such an individual until Schultze Gets the Blues, but even if I had, I’m confident that that statement would still ring true.
First time director, Michael Schorr, is either a genuine emerging talent in the industry, or he’s had an incredible spat of beginner’s luck. I opt to believe the former.
Schorr takes us to Germany’s lush countryside where things move a little slower. We’re introduced to a life void of excitement-where the only truculence to be found is in a disputed chess game between grumpy old men. This has become Schultze’s (Horst Krause) life. Forced into retirement, he does not live but merely exists.
The biggest excitement of the year in this humble mining town comes in the form of a community festival where local polka musicians compete (using the term loosely) for a spot in a larger such festival held, across the pond, in Texas, USA. Schultze is a polka accordion virtuoso, and it seems he has never cared enough to venture into other genres-most certainly not into the American Zydeco roots music he catches by chance on the late night radio dial. At first, he seems almost ashamed that he’s so enthralled with such foreign sounds, but to our benefit, he quickly immerses himself bayou culture.
Instead of appeasing tradition, our corpulent fellow decides to christen his new style at the music festival and is awarded with the trip to Texas. Not surprisingly Schultze is less than excited to reprise his old polka style so close to the root of his new passion. Undaunted by the fact that he speaks less than a dozen words of English, he purchases a boat, floats across the gulf to Louisiana, and is figuratively baptized in the bayou.
The thought of the average joe undertaking such an adventure seems incredible. Even more inconceivable is the notion that a man as stolid as Schultze would be found squarely in the driver’s seat, suddenly the master of his own destiny. Yet, somehow, it seems entirely natural.
Michael Schorr has done something very unusual. He has allowed his characters to simply exist within the world of the film, thus allowing us not only to believe what is happening, but to find Schultze’s tale strikingly salient. Such adept film making from a first time director is remarkable.
Schultze certainly gets the blues, and we’re all the better for it. Cheers old boy.
Cast & Credits
Written and Directed By….Michael Schorr
Manfred….Karl Fred Muller
Jurgen’s Wife….Ursula Schucht
Manfred’s Wife….Hannelore Schubert
Schultze’s Mother….Loni Frank
Frau Lorant….Rosemarie Deibel