A DVD, Schultze gets the blues, and a book, Portuguese Irregular Verbs
Minimalism comes to life in Schultze gets the blues.
The story starts when Schultze and his two friends Manfred and Jürgen are pushed into early retirement from the salt mines and receive salt lamps as retirement gifts. Schultze spends his retirement days playing the polka on his accordion, gardening (and polishing his garden gnomes), watching his friends fight over chess, riding his bicycle to get around, visiting his mother at the nursing home, and enjoying a beer or two. At the nursing home he meets whiskey-drinking Frau Lorant, who wants him to take her to the casino.
Then he listens to a Zydeco tune on the radio and his life changes completely.
Schultze’s played by Horst Krause, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Curly Howard, if Curly wore eyeglasses and a fedora, and had a deep voice. Not that Shultze is a man of many words.
Director Michael Schorr’s touch is light, slow — and I mean slow –, and makes for a very very funny movie. Schultze is a lucky everyman (I was told once that Schultze is a way to refer to a “generic German” guy, and probably not very complimentary, but have never wanted to find out on my own) who manages to break away from his everyday rutine, and, as Amazon reviewer Donald Liebenson said, “While Schultze’s journey comes to a downbeat conclusion, the film manages to end on a lovely grace note”, that note will make you laugh, too.
Alexander McCall Smith, creator of the delightful The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, also uses a light touch, this time in his mild satire of academia, Portuguese Irregular Verbs. This is Smith’s first entry in the academic parody genre, which Kingsley Amis made popular with his 1954 novel Lucky Jim.
Unlike Schultze, the protagonist is a man of many words: 1200 pages’ worth, since Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, philology professor, exausted (more like “wore out”) the subject of Portuguese irregular words in his seminal volume, of which only 200 sold. As you can well believe, when it came to the subject of Portuguese irregular verbs, von Igelfeld left “nothing more to be said on the subject. Nothing”. Also unlike Schultze, the Professor is socially inept, and travels a lot. Not an everyman at all, von Igelfeld is acutely aware of his ancestry and longs for aristocratic sports, like fencing.
His travels take him to India, and twice to Italy, where there are echoes of Thomas Mann in the final chapter.
Nowhere near as endearing as Schultze, Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld stumbles across a near-adventure or two. Schultze follows his new-found passion (low-key as it may be). Schultze is a German guy created and portrayed by Germans. Von Igelfeld is a German academic created by a Zimbabwe-born British academic. The contrast couldn’t be sharper.
In all, Portuguese Irregular Verbs, at 128 pages, is an amusing read for a leisurely afternoon.