The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Swamp music invigorates German accordion player

    His name is Schultze. He rides a bicycle in his small, quiet town in East Germany. He and his friends, Jurgen and Manfred, frequent pubs, chess matches and fishing holes. He wears a dark fedora and glasses atop his husky bust that often holds flannel shirts, suspenders and an accordion. He’s not heroic or witty and his story isn’t particularly adventurous, but he’s loveable and inspiring.

    “Schultze Gets the Blues” is a dry comedy and character study in the minimalist tradition of sparse dialogue and action. Anyone accustomed to the fast-paced films that come out of Hollywood will probably not like “Schultze.” It’s a patient and slow film with a loveable character that viewers may not be able to identify with, but will find a way to root for his cause none-the-less.

    For about 50 years, Schultze and his crew of misfits saw their days unfold beginning with an eight-hour day at the salt mines and ending with a few pints at the pub. But when their foreman forces them to retire and colleagues give them a salt-block lamp as a door prize, Schultze resorts to isolation and loneliness, spending his time taking naps, tending to his garden, visiting his mother in the hospital and, of course, drinking.

    Like his father before him, Schultze is an accomplished accordion player and frequents local polka festivals. One day, Schultze stumbles upon Louisiana “swamp music,” or zydeco, and becomes strangely enraptured. He finds that, before long, every polka standard he tries to play turns into zydeco. This perturbs Schultze to the point that he goes to the doctor who tells him he can’t prescribe anything for a change in musical taste. As the 50th anniversary of the local polka club approaches, Schultze faces the conundrum of trying his new style or playing the standard fare.

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    With his doctor and friends backing him, Schultze bravely belts out the snazzy number that has haunted him and the town aptly responds, deeming it “nigger music.” Schultze gets so depressed that he can’t even face pictures of his father anymore. Seeing his depression, the town pitches in to send Schultze to Texas for a polka festival (if only to get him out of town). From there, Schultze decides that his life is short and he must visit the Louisiana bayou where his musical inspiration was born.

    Perhaps the most dominant theme of “Schultze Gets the Blues” is a stranger in a strange land. Unlike the dozens of inspirational films before it, nothing changes for Schultze. There’s no success, love, mystery or fantastic message – and that’s a good thing.

    I’d like to say that “Schultze Gets the Blues” unfolds like a song, but it doesn’t. At best, it feels like a dance that begins slowly, yet methodically. After a few verses, it picks up only to end with complete exhaustion.

    When it came out in 2003, European film festivals garnered “Schultze” with best film, best director and best actor nominations nearly across the board. For a directorial debut, Michael Schorr breaks the mold and creates an addicting and loveable film.

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    Swamp music invigorates German accordion player