Houck is sort of the Mark Bourchardt or Henry Darger of violin-making, but this
outsider luthier might just have a truly great instrument in him. The question
is, will the lifelong Ohio resident finish it in time for its expected European
premiere. Luthiering looks grungier than you’ve ever seen it before, but the
passion is still worthy of old world Cremona in Stefan Avalos’s Strad Style (trailer here), which won both
the audience and jury awards for best documentary at the 2017 Slamdance FilmFestival.
never really spells it out, but from what we glean he has struggled with
bi-polar disorder throughout his life. Aside from luthiering (which is mostly
speculative at this point), he has no discernable source of income. Generally,
he lives frugally, but he will not hesitate to purchase tools he deems necessary.
some reason, Houck is convinced he can replicate the sound of vintage
Stradivari and de Gesù violins. Admittedly, he clearly has natural talent, but
he doesn’t seem to have any customers yet. However, when he makes the
acquaintance of emerging Romanian superstar soloist Razvan Stoica online, Houck
convinces the violinist he can deliver a “Strad” quality instrument in time for
a high-profile concert in Amsterdam. Yet, it is highly uncertain whether Houck
has sufficient resources and can stay in the proper head-space long enough to
meet the deadline.
whether Strad Style launches Houck’s
lutherie career or not, it should provide an additional boost to Stoica’s steady
climb to international prominence. It might be slightly spoilery to say, but he
definitely makes Houck’s work sound great. He also deserves credit for giving an
unheralded self-described “nobody” such an opportunity. (Presumably, there are
a lot of luthiers out there who would love to say Stoica plays their custom
instruments.) In fact, he even used Houck’s violin to record the Strad Style digital EP.
certainly never whitewashes Houck’s mean living conditions, but he still
manages to bring a bit of stylish flair to the proceedings. He pulls off a few
wide angle pull-back shots that dramatically illustrate his subject’s rural
isolation and the animated recreation of a mouse stealing Houck’s last
sound-post is rather amusing. As a result, Strad
Style feels like a real film and not just some edited together footage of
Houck puttering about his workshop.
Style is a rather encouraging film, because we see the eccentric Houck’s
devotion to music start to pay-off. Where it leads next remains uncertain, but
at least it brought him and Stoica to Park City after their meeting in
Amsterdam. Recommended for broad-minded classical music connoisseurs, Strad Style should have many festival
screenings ahead of it, after sweeping the doc awards at this year’s Slamdance.
Labels: Documentary, Razvan Stoica, Slamdance '17