This catchy documentary revisits a weird adore event between Communist Romania and a long-running TV soap ‘Dallas,’ with assistance from Bobby Ewing himself.
A weird guest coming by former Dallas star Patrick Duffy is a pivotal offered indicate for this unusual docu-fiction hybrid, that universe premiered during a Berlin Film Festival final week. Blending Cold War discourse with 1980s pop-culture homage, Hotel Dallas is written, constructed and destined by a married integrate of New York City-based artists, Livia Ungur and Sherng-Lee Huang.
Partly saved by a extend from Yale, where Ungur studed art, a duo’s entrance underline overcomes a apparently singular bill with wit, imagination and visible flair. That said, Hotel Dallas still has a initial feel and niche interest of an art project. Beyond film festivals, left-field documentary channels and maybe even galleries will be a many apparent home.
The impulse for Hotel Dallas is secure in Ungur’s childhood memories of Communist-era Romania in a 1980s, when Dallas was a usually US import screened on state-controlled TV, evidently as cautionary promotion about a evils of western capitalism. But a devise backfired when a uncover became hugely renouned among bankrupt Romanians, who embraced it as aspirational lifestyle porn. Indeed, Larry “JR” Hagman after credited Dallas with assisting to disintegrate a country’s former tyrant Nicolae Ceaucescu.
Hagman himself cashed in on a show’s fast cult appeal, creation TV commercials for oil products in post-Communist Romania, that Ungur and Huang embody in their patchwork of aged and new material. One internal sunflower oil aristocrat even went as distant as building his possess Southfork-style plantation hotel tighten to a southeastern city of Slobozia, manufacture a quarter-sized Eiffel Tower reproduction in a garden as an combined bonus. This surreal plcae explains a film’s pretension and serves as a account jumping-off point.
Both directors seem in a film. A pixie-like figure in an outsized cowboy hat, Ungur plays a fictionalized chronicle of her younger self, blurring existence and fantasy, documentary and easily scrambled autobiography. The executive tract is a kind of dreamlike highway outing opposite present-day Romania, with Duffy providing a voiceover as a confused American traveller clearly modeled on his Dallas character Bobby Ewing. Recording his contributions in LA, Duffy is mostly a outspoken presence, yet a film-makers also incorporate brief visible snippets of him into their deconstructed, catchy collage.
Punctuating this lax executive account are mixed offbeat digressions, including clips of a 1947 John Wayne western Angel and a Badman and monochrome restagings of pivotal Dallas plotlines, all given an mocking Cold War turn by child actors dressed as Pioneers, Romania’s Communist girl group. There is even a witty compliance of a show’s opening credits sequence, finish with a gypsy-folk chronicle of a thesis music.
There is substantially a penetrating assembly for a straight, informative, fact-driven documentary about a soft-power purpose that hugely renouned US shows such as Dallas played in hastening a tumble of a Berlin Wall. But this is not that film. Instead, Ungur and Huang have done something distant some-more eccentric, enigmatic and impressionistic. Hotel Dallas is maddeningly quirky in places, creation few concessions to mainstream docu-drama conventions. But it is also rather poetic in a loopy rhythms and palatable visuals, a charmingly personal take on common informative memories.
Production company: Ungur Huang, New York
Cast: Livia Ungur, Patrick Duffy, Razvan Doroftei, Serena Sgardea,
Maria Croitoru, Nicu Ungureanu, Sherng-Lee Huang
Directors, screenwriters, producers: Livia Ungur, Sherng-Lee Huang
Editor: Sherng-Lee Huang
Music: Samuel Suggs
Sound design: Adam Chimera
Sales company: Heretic Outreach, Athens
No rating, 75 minutes