The Frenetic Oddity of Inspiration: Our Review of ‘Strad Style’

Posted in Movies, VOD/iTunes/DigitalDownload by - November 08, 2017
The Frenetic Oddity of Inspiration: Our Review of ‘Strad Style’

Stefan Avalos’ documentary Strad Style profiles Danny Houck, a 32-year-old living in small town Ohio. His house is rickety yet huge, which makes me wonder. How can he can afford this house and and why he doesn’t maintain it? It’s one of the questions Avalos doesn’t answer. Houck doesn’t seem to have a job, which is what one needs to maintain such a house. Instead, he fills up all that free time with his hobbies, like fixing cars, and magic, and violins. The film focuses on his interest towards violins. Although the other two might distract him from his big one.

The work of Stradivari and Guarneri captivate him. He wants to make violins just like those great master craftsmen did. Houck takes this obsession further with the help of the internet. The film shows his occasionally going on YouTube rabbit holes of playing videos of the great violinists. In one of those rabbit holes, he finds a rising star of a violinist. That man is Razvan Stoica, who starts befriending Hauck through Facebook and Skype. In one of their conversations Houck promises not just to make a violin for Stoica.

He wants to make a replica of Guarneri’s famous violin bearing the name ‘Il Canone’. Most of us, especially those whose dreams are dead, believe in baby steps when taking up a hobby. But violin making isn’t just a hobby for Hauck. It’s a dream, and taking such a big leap adds a sense of dread to the film. And that’s true especially since we are possibly watching one of those farcical documentaries. Ones where the filmmaker might not want its subject to succeed.

Strad Style has two halves. The first basically has scenes where Houck talks a big talk, which makes for a terrible first impression. The second starts when we see him play a violin for a bit, which raises the financial issue once again. It also gives the audience the idea that he can do something. And what’s more, that he might actually pull this off. Cue the woodworking montages, a staple of fictional films that’s also a welcome hint to Avalos’ style. At first, I wanted more montages and success story that has a more conventional arc. But then I realized that the frenetically chatty procrastinator and the cool doer can coexist within the same person. He wants perfection but he also wants the project to be over.

It’s strange to find a man like Hauck who aspires to make a replica of something. He could, instead, forge something on his own. The film revels on that. It also physicalizes a less glamorous and more modern weight on what it takes to get DIY violin making done. Fortunately, it also surrounds him with people who for the most part believe in him and what’s he’s doing. The more we watch the more it shows a sincerity in a film that could have been mercilessly farcical. I usually react to enthusiasm like Hauck’s with cynicism but the film shows how he forges on. It even implies a disappointment that most people don’t have the dedication that he has. As indigestible as the first scenes can be, the film’s last fifteen minutes is just plain rousing.

Strad Style is available for rent or purchase on iTunes now.


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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you’re working.