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Keyed Fantasies: Music, the Accordion and the American Dream in Stroszek and Schultze Gets The Blues

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The strange body of the accordion, breathing, undulating, strapped to the chest of its player, is among the many striking elements linking Werner Herzog's Stroszek (1976) and Michael Schorr's Schultze gets the blues (2003). This paper considers Schultze to be a complex response to Herzog's film, using the accordion as a link between German and American culture as well as between contemporary German cinema and its towering predecessors in New German Cinema. Both Stroszek and Schultze are interested in some strain of the ‘American Dream’: Stroszek hopes to find wealth and happiness, and Schultze seeks a certain ethnic spice found within the ‘melting pot’ of American culture. In both cases, the complex machinery of the accordion is a metaphor for dreams that might be realised in America and for the mobility required to realise them. In tracing the link between these two films, my paper investigates ways in which music is bound to cultural landscapes, and to what extent a new cultural identity can be attained through one's relationship to musical sound. For Stroszek, and, more successfully, for Schultze, the accordion is a symbol of an intact and mobile body capable of crossing cultural boundaries.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Pennsylvania

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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