is way different from the Ewings’ Dallas, but there is still a lot of energy
money there. That is indirectly why
German corporate headhunter Clemens Trunschka is visiting. He is supposed to make a confidential offer
on behalf of a client to a prominent Texas petroleum CEO without alerting his current
firm. This turns out to be easier said
than done in Bastian Günther’s Houston (clip here), which screened
as part of the World Dramatic Competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
drinks too much, straining his relationship with his wife Christine. Perhaps sensing trouble at home, his son has
been acting out at school. It is a
problem his father is not inclined to face.
In a way, the assignment to recruit Steve Ringer comes at an opportune
time, getting Trunschka out of the house for a while. After missing Ringer at an exclusive European
energy conference, Trunschka must follow him to H-Town. However, the combination of jet lag, liquor,
and the blinding Texas sun seem to have a disorienting effect on the
Ringer’s gatekeepers keep him locked up tighter than Rapunzel, Trunschka will
have to get creative to reach him. The
pressure is mounting, which has a further destabilizing effect on the German. However, a fellow guest in his hotel seems
eager to help. Robert Wagner, the actor’s
namesake as he is quick to point out, seems to be the perfect caricature of the
loud backslapping American. In fact, he
is clearly supposed to make viewers suspicious—about Trunschka.
there is plenty to make viewers wonder about the firmness of the German
protagonist’s grip on things, Günther’s approach is tightly restrained, dry
even. Trunschka’s dark night of the soul
is all about brooding rather than knock-down drag-out binge drama. Ulrich Tukur, best known for The Lives of Others and John Rabe is perfectly suited for the
tightly wound, quietly cracking-up Trunschka.
He can do a slow burn better than just about anyone. Likewise, Garret Dillahunt nicely hints at an
unsettling undercurrent beneath Wagner’s aggressively good humor.
Michael Kotschi makes the most of Houston’s dazzling sunlight and the
reflections off its glass and steel towers, creating a real sense of an urban
wonderland. While strikingly composed,
the entire film is too fixated on shiny surfaces, never really getting to the
characters root cores. Nonetheless, some
commentators will surely embrace the film as another critique of the capitalist
system, even though it depicts a rather singular crisis—a self-destructive
alcoholic’s inability to convey a lucrative job offer to a highly successful
looks great, but mostly offers empty calories,
despite the quality of Tukur’s work. Still,
it might be interesting to some East and West Coasters as a window into Europe’s
perspective on the Texas state of reality.
As a result, Houston is likely
to get further festival play, particularly given the two well known German and
American principle cast-members, following its world premiere at the 2013
Sundance Film Festival.
Labels: German Cinema, Sundance '13, Ulrich Tukur