What hints at a wacky one-note polka—staid, retired German miner and accordion hobbyist upends his life upon hearing zydeco—ends up an intricate, becalmed take on a soul adrift. Something of an anti-heimatfilm, Schultze Gets the Blues gently loathes the German mining town in which the first half is set. Like the title character (Horst Krause, stout and smiling), the movie is bewitched by the myriad ways out: a friendly French dowager, a flamenco-happy barmaid, and finally, after Schultze rubs Oktoberfesters wrong with a Cajun tune, a ticket to represent the community in its Texas sister city. The crummy, prefab industrial landscapes give way to (seemingly timeless) shotgun shacks, crab boats, and juke joints. Schultze, a gigantic gentlemanly slab doffing his hat to everyone, becomes a lost-in-America cousin to Jack Nicholson’s Schmidt, finding himself quashed by the strangeness of it all. The overplayed architectural contrasts (Schultze never sees America’s own industrial wastelands) are understandable, given the hero’s innocence and director Michael Schorr’s willingness to meander along with him. There’s no hoo-ha about the magic of music here—just a little tune that Schultze never quite learns, that never quite fits into his life.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 8, 2005