Film Review: Hotel Dallas, Sherng-Lee Huang ’02 and Livia Ungur
Written and directed by the husband-and-wife team of Sherng-Lee Huang ’02 and Livia Ungur, Hotel Dallas is a tough movie to categorize: part documentary, part fiction, part personal essay, part art installation, it takes on an impressive range of styles and subjects in just 74 minutes, anchored by the relationship between Ungur’s native Romania and the American TV series Dallas. One of the few bits of American pop culture to legally make it to Romania during Communist rule in the 1980s, Texas-set nighttime soap opera Dallas had a significant influence on Ungur and her fellow Romanians, and Hotel Dallas is an impressionistic exploration of that influence, as well as a meditation on the past and future of Romania itself.
Ungur and actual Dallas star Patrick Duffy are the only performers billed in the opening credits, and they share a sort of cross-cultural connection, as Duffy, possibly playing his Dallas character Bobby Ewing, appears as a disembodied voiceover joining Ungur (who’s decked out like a cartoonish Romanian misconception of a cowgirl) at the real Hotel Dallas in the Romanian city of Slobozia. Ungur’s father, Nicu Ungureanu, plays Romanian oligarch Ilie Alexandru, who built the Hotel Dallas as a replica of Dallas’ Southfork Ranch, and fashioned himself as “the J.R. Ewing of Romania.” Huang later shows up in the movie as a younger version of Alexandru, who died in 2010; both movie versions deliver their backstory in the form of songs.