Though mostly set in the land where they roll out the barrel, the German comedy-drama Schultze gets the blues isn't for those whose taste runs to beer-like movies. This is a film more like a fine wine: best savored. Defiantly slow-paced, Schultze gets the blues embraces a neglected subject: the wanderlust of the retiree.
Writer-director Michael Schorr observes three recently released coal workers as they adjust to the freedoms and limitations of a life of leisure. One of the men, Schultze, learns—literally and metaphorically—to play a new song. With studied patience and an eye for the deadpan, Schorr establishes the rotund Schultze's langorous lifestyle. Schorr delineates the idiosyncratic behavior of a man alone (save for his garden gnomes) and the endearing gestures of a man enjoying, as never before, the company of friends.
The refrain "you've got all the time in the world" seems less convincing with each cheery utterance. Schultze's friend Jürgen (Harald Warmbrunn) opines, "They've been taking the piss. We need a revolution...You're never too old for a revolution." At the film's turning point, Schultze's ears perk up at a radio mention of lung cancer. A man with a nagging cough, Schultze reaches for the knob—and turns the channel, lighting on zydeco music. The lifelong polka player likes what he hears, and considers changing his tune for an upcoming accordion exhibition that may win him a trip to the states.
That's nearly all the plot there is in Schultze gets the blues: it's willfully lacking in energy most of the time, but it's also drily funny and unexpectedly rich. Unlike About Schmidt, Schultze gets the blues is more humane than it is sarcastic. Even when Schultze gets bad news while wearing a toreador outfit, the movie wears its heart on its sleeve.
Schultze gets the blues arrives on home video in a passable transfer, with the added enhancement of a subtitled director's commentary. Some ringing of the image (a slight halo effect) reveals itself, and the film grain is a bit excessive (especially in blackness), but Schultze gets the blues generally looks just fine.
Though Michael Shorr's commentary refers twice to a "Making Of," Paramount has not included it on this disc; instead we get three letterboxed but unsubtitled trailers running 5:33, 1:38, and 2:48 in length (as well as an anti-piracy ad and previews for Winter Solstice, Mad Hot Ballroom, Après Vous, The Machinist, and Enduring Love).
Schorr's commentary will delight fans of the film, as he explains in detail the development of the script and the production of his first feature. With plenty of amiable anecdotes, Schorr tells of the commitment of his crew and the non-professional actors who make up much of the cast. He offers a bit of music history, points out locations, and gives an outsider's view of America.
Some of Schorr's most interesting comments relate to the film's psuedo-documentary style—he explains the unusually chronological shooting schedule, refers to "discovering things in the picture in a static setting...to sharpen the perception," and waxes enthusiastic about the little things ("I can watch that for ages...how he fiddles around with the cushion, I think that's great").
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