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Paramount Home Video presents
Schultze Gets the Blues (2003)

"Cheers, Schultze! To life!"
- Lorant (Rosemarie Deibel)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: August 29, 2005

Stars: Horst Krause
Other Stars: Harald Warmbrunn, Karl Fred Müller, Ursula Schucht, Hannelore Schubert, Wilhelmine Horschig, Wolfgang Boos, Leo Fischer, Rosemarie Deibel, Elke Rümmler
Director: Michael Schorr

MPAA Rating: PG for mild language
Run Time: 01h:49m:10s
Release Date: August 30, 2005
UPC: 097363434641
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A+ A+BB+ B

DVD Review

Based solely on looks, rotund German actor Horst Krause bears more than a passing resemblance to what I imagine a retirement-aged Curly Howard from The Three Stooges would have looked like, crossed with a bit of Benny Hill; it's almost like one would expect him to be a moment away from pounding out some kind of broad physical shtick. But that's just about simple appearances, because even though Krause does display some very gentle moments of natural comedy as the title character in Schultze Gets the Blues, the heart of his performance is in the way he effortlessly portrays a quiet lonely man in the throes of a very pivotal emotional moment in his life.

It's the story of a retired miner (Krause) in a small German town, who unquestionably plays traditional polkas on his accordion, just like his father before him, until one day he hears some Zydeco music on the radio. Zydeco seems to somehow connect with Schultze's unspoken inner restlessness, heightened by his retirement, and with this new music indelibly under his skin he bucks tradition, disrupts his local music club with his new passion, and ultimately sets off on a personal journey of discovery.

Written and directed by Michael Schorr (so far his first and only feature), Schultze Gets the Blues has justifiably garnered a number of film fest awards since its theatrical release in 2003. For lack of a better term, there is a decidedly "European" feel to the way he has constructed things with regard to pacing and cinematography, though the story itself should bridge those gaps to make this accessible to those who wouldn't normally seek out a subtitled film. Things happen very slowly, but in a way that ends up making the characters all seem very real.

Schorr, who adopts a very leisurely pace to telling the simple story of Schultze, often likes to have things happen at the edge or just out of frame, choosing to keep the camera static and allowing events to unfold without the viewer always being able to see them. It's an interesting technique—not quite as arty as it sounds, but certainly left of typical multiplex fodder—and scenes like an encounter with an oil tanker or a flamenco-dancing waitress either conclude or develop as if Schorr has forgotten to move the camera, instead relying on sound or reactions to fill in the missing pieces.

Schorr's technical approach, however, is augmented by a charming performance from Krause, who imbues Schultze with alternating bouts of boredom, sadness, and excitement, often with nothing more than just a facial expression. Krause makes it look easy, acting like he's not acting, projecting small bits of humor or sadness with deceptively subdued movements to create a character that really lives and breathes; if you were tell me Schultze was a real person, I might be inclined to believe you.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Schultze Gets the Blues has been issued in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, with a transfer that is modest but effective. Color rendering is never exceptionally bright, sometimes bordering on being a bit too dark, but much of the film seems to be purposely dreary. Image detail is noticeably soft, and some grain and ringing issues are also evident, though not to the point of distraction.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The film's original German-language track is presented here in a low-key but clean Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track, available with optional English subtitles. This is mostly a quiet little film, and the 5.1 is largely relegated to simple directional pans as vehicles cross the screen. Rears are not employed often, but do come to life sporadically during some of the musical beds, and their usage is simple and appropriate.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 7 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
3 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Winter Solstice, Mad Hot Ballroom, Apres Vous, The Machinist, Enduring Love
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Michael Schorr
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Writer/director Michael Schorr contributes a commentary track here, in German with optional English subtitles. Schorr talks about project origins, casting, provides a brief history of Zydeco music, and tidbits like the impact of camera movement to sell the dramatics of a particular scene.

There are three German language trailers for the feature, as well as a handful of other previews. The disc is cut into seven meager chapters, and features optional English subtitles.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Michael Schorr's writing/directing debut is a sweet little film ostensibly about the power of music, but it's really about being able to take that difficult leap to ultimately follow your heart. Don't be put off by the fact that it's in German (dialogue is actually very minimal if you're subtitle-phobic), and instead be taken in by the gentle emoting of Horst Krause as the Zydeco-fueled Schultze, who lets the music steer him along in new directions.

Highly recommended, and for me, one of the year's best.


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