Schultze Gets the Blues (Michael Schorr). 114 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (March 4). For venues and times, see Movies, page 91. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and you'd better hope that's true, because Schultze Gets the Blues is almost entirely dialogue-free.
You'll also be able to test the theory of whether patience is indeed a virtue, because Michael Schorr is very fond of extreme long shots of nothing in particular.
Finally, you'll discover whether still waters do run deep, because recently retired salt mine worker Schultze (quietly compelling Horst Krause) is neither the glamorous nor the boisterous sort. He's a simple man leading a simple life. Other than playing a mean polka, his day-to-day activities (drinking beer, visiting his ailing mother, watching friends play chess) are as ordinary as they come.
If all this sounds like an indictment of the film, it isn't, because this undeniably odd picture beautifully illustrates so much: music as language, how kindness speaks volumes, the tedium and displacement of retirement, and how one small moment can effect change. It's just that it takes us a while to get to these moments. For every comedic gem - a power-hungry man decides who can and can't pass on the bike path - there's an endless useless look at a motocross race or a five-minute sequence featuring three men eating dinner.
Schorr won the special director's prize for this film in Venice, and it's fully deserved. But then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.