Calling Houston: Clemens Trunschka (Ulrich Tukur) has a problem.
He’s been asked to headhunt Steve Ringer, the CEO of Houston Petrol, for a German car manufacturer. His clients are putting all their trust in his ability to pull it off. “Yes, you must” is the brusquely assertive implication that he has one last chance to come up with the human goods. His friend, driving him to the airport, presses some self-help CDs into his hand, about success: wanting it and finding it.
Once arrived, Trunschka re-inserts himself into the empty corridors of corporate rule that look much the same the world over. And into the well-stocked minibars of hotels that form the backdrop of globalized capitalism.
As he goes about locating his target, and trying to get close to it, he’s befriended by a lonely hotel comptroller Bob (Garret Dillahunt): another man hanging on to the shipwreck of humanity, at sea in an ocean of cut-throat competition. Bob has a couple of tips on Steve Ringer’s private life that might be helpful – and so ‘Clem’ and Bob begin to make their way through netherworlds of ambiguous means and ends, hoping for – and then ignoring – the real by-product of friendship.
Houston is a timely film and one that eschews the truculent board-room machinations of more conventional indictments. This critique of a slyly re-emergent, post-2008 global greed is both more vivid and more ephemeral, scratching away skin-deep comforts until the underlying nerves lie blank and bleeding. Tukur’s perversely driven habitation of the eerily impersonal spaces in the American southwest is spot on: alternately cooperative and caddish, he’s a man losing himself to corruption, his family to indifference, his health and sanity to alcohol. Struggling to thwart an absent Kafka-esque collective, he has only the delusional figure of his faithful dog to remind him that loyalty is just that: delusional.
Already an Indie-circuit favourite (Sundance, Boston, Karlovy Vary, Hof), the tenebrous tones, all-angle camera work, repeated cut-off shots of bodies losing face and a solipsistic soundtrack combine to make this an interesting, if occasionally over-literal exploration of the price we pay, and are expected to pay, for keeping the system afloat.
In English, with some German.
Houston | Directed by Bastian Günther (Germany, USA 2013) with Ulrich Tukur, Garret Dillahunt, Wolfram Koch. Starts December 5