Monday, March 28, 2005

Schultze Gets the Blues

On Saturday, Amy and I saw a movie that may win a Ralphy when the time comes: Schultze Gets the Blues, which has been accurately described as a "German feel-good comedy." Sounds odd to me, too. But it was really funny in an understated way. Herr Schultze (his first name is never mentioned), forced to retire early from his job as a salt-miner in Germany, finds retired life in Saxony a dull proposition. He even loses his zest for playing polkas on the accordion, until one night he hears some zydeco music on the radio. It intrigues him, shakes him up, and leads him on a quest in which he eventually winds up (don't ask how, just see it) in a "borrowed" boat wandering through the bayous of Louisiana. This movie is slow paced compared to the average Hollywood blockbuster; but it's worth finding its subtle rhythm and settling into it. "Schultze" is a crack-up.

Two final comments: (1) The actual title of the German movie is the English sentence "Schultze gets the blues." This is a very inapt title, since Schultze does not get emotionally blue, just bored; and the music he discovers really has little to do with the blues as such. A more accurate title would have been "Schultze Breaks Out of his Rut When He Discovers Zydeco." But for German audiences the English term "the blues" may be more evocative of American roots music than any another term (and in fact the word "zydeco," if memory serves, is never uttered in the film).

(2) Speaking as an American who loves Europe, I was happy to see in this German movie that the US is portrayed as a friendly and diverse place. There are scenes set in the Germanic community of New Braunfels, Texas, and the Cajun French-speaking areas of Louisiana; and most of the ordinary American folks Schultze runs into are not much different than the ordinary folks of Saxony. So, unless there's a heavy dose of irony here that I'm not getting, this is a pretty positive European depiction of the USA, or at least of the South. Yes, it may be true that here in the US we enjoy executing our criminals and invading other countries, but, got-dang it, we've also got the funkiest tunes and the friendliest folks on the whole planet! So y'all come on over any time, now, y'here?

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