11/11/10

Heard any good stories lately? : URBANIA

A troubled young man walks the streets of Greenwich Village on the last night of daylight savings time, seemingly in his own world.  Along the way he bumps into strangers and acquaintances who either offer advice or relay fantastic urban legends as fact.  Actually before Urbania's story begins in earnest we watch as a businessman goes home with a strange woman, makes love to her, passes out, and then wakes up in a bathtub full of ice only to discover that his kidney has been removed.
Based on the stage play, Urban Folk Tales, Urbania ( made in 2000)  follows a lonely young man named Charlie (Dan Futterman) on a nocturnal journey through the seedy streets of New York City's West Village.  It seems that Charlie is still coping with the fact that his lover Chris (Matt Keeslar) has abandoned him, and Charlie is desperately trying to come to grips with this fact.  So, with eyes wide shut, he stumbles about bumping into a cavalcade of characters who come complete with their own tall tales: there is the bartender whose appendage is so large it allegedly drove a wealthy woman to bequeath her life savings to him; the old lady who panics and shoves her wet poodle into a microwave oven to dry it off; the loud mouthed tourist who got more than she bargained for when she picked up her pictures from her last vacation  - and all of these vaguely familiar stories serve our hero well as he's constantly saying, "Distract me, man. Take me out of my own head for two minutes".  And it make sense, as Charlie's head seems crowded with all sorts of unsavory things.  Not only is he mourning the death of his relationship, he's also constantly seeing the phantom of a bloodied man asking for his help as well as having visions of some sort of violent occurance that might have happend in his past.
As the night wears on it becomes obvious that Charlie may have found someone to replace his lost love as he seems to be stalking a rather dangerous but handsome tattooed stranger that he keeps seeing out of the corner of his eye.  Again, through flashbacks, the viewer is made to think that the stranger and Charlie may have crossed paths before.  Whatever the case may be, Charlies seems to be obsessed with the stranger, following him around, standing a few feet from him while the guy is making out with a woman, and then, striking up a conversation with him in a bar.
Finally, Charlie seems to have the man of his obsessive dreams who is called Dean (Sam Ball) where he wants him; , that he seems to possess a more-than-passing-resemblance to his ex beau is not lost on the viewer.  But that's not it, not by a long a shot...and to spill any more at this point would be to ruin the punchline of a devastatingly mind numbing psychological thriller.
Bringing to mind such films as After Hours, Looking for Mr. Goodbar and Mulholland Dr, Urbania seems like the type of film Hitchcock might have made would that he were a gay man.  Many of Hitch's themes and touches (obsession, sexual guilt, grief, psychological scaring etc) are noticed throughout.   It's also interesting that Urbania is the rare film that presents a main character who is gay with out any of the cinematic trappings of a gay male - he's not a fashion plate, nor is he terribly witty, he does not serve as a comic foil, and in spite of everything, he's not as tragic as one might think - in fact he's a bit of a loose cannon whose obsession serves a much larger cause.  Dan Futterman's acting is what holds this exercise together and he's magnificent.  Sometimes pathetic, other times charming, often devious, and even menacing(!) - he also manages to throw in a bit of good old fashioned sex appeal when needed.  One might wonder why he never went on to bigger and better things after this film.
Finally, if you make it to the end of this film and don't feel relieved, saddened and horrified, you might want to check your humanity.  Urbania is a long, scary, funny, sexy, terrifying walk on the wild side - and one well worth the trip.

4 comments:

JA said...

FUTTERMAN. KEESLAR. YES.

Jack Veasey said...

An amazing film about which I'd completely forgotten. Thanks for reminding me. I found it very upsetting, but I really do need to see it again.

Alana Noel Voth said...

Hi Pax-y,

Thank you. Just added the film to my Netflix Queue. XO

jef-martel said...

Well, you made me want to see that now, really ... and try to make a poster because that one does not look great. (but then again who says i could make better XD)