Published Mar 01, 2005This is a spare, deader-than-deadpan quasi-comedy that will make you think of Aki Kaurismaki and Roy Andersson; it's not nearly as good as either of them though, but neither is it chopped liver.
The eponymous Schultze is a portly and aging accordion player who's just been forcibly pensioned off from his mining job. With nothing left to do but keep going, he finds new meaning when he listens to a Cajun radio program and falls in love with a Zydeco tune. This causes much friction with a local music society that frowns upon anything but traditional polkas, but Schultze is obsessed.
The plot is only half the point, working as it does in concert with well-stage-managed static takes of the protagonist and his sad-sack fellow retirees. And director Michael Schorr is very good at getting the right tone of nothingness to provoke deliciously uncomfortable laughter.
There's not a whole lot of substance to the film, which follows the same cute-outcast-follows-his-bliss routine as a million mainstream imports, and teeters on the brink of condescension to its childlike proletarian hero. It also nearly stops dead once it transplants Schultze to Louisiana, where he's largely isolated and without any significant figure to play off of. But Horst Krause makes a quietly hilarious impression in the lead role, as much for his comic build as for his performance, and Schorr knows how to arrange him and the rest of the cast for maximum comic impact.
If there are far better films in this vein, this is still a curious enough piece of filmmaking to hold you in bemusement, and it's very funny when it decides to stay on issue. (Paramount Classics)