urbania (2000)

director: jon shear

dan futterman, lothaire bluteay, alan cumming, barbara sukowa

Nothing makes much sense in the first few minutes of Jon Shear’s Urbania, which is the first hint that you have to wait until the very end to “get” the movie.

Charlie (Dan Futterman) is recently single and drifting through his life, his one goal seeming to be the pursuit of a handsome street tough he’s seen in his neighbourhood. The film follows him on the night he goes out intent on starting something. During the course of his journey, he runs into several “urban myths”, like the poodle in the microwave or the one-night-stand pick-up who loses a kidney. We don’t know whether to believe these stories, and we’re not supposed to believe what seems to be happening to Charlie.

The real power of Shear’s film is its relentless tapping into the low-level paranoia unique to a city like New York, and the way it turns almost everyone who lives there into some kind of sociopath. It’s a smart film, but manages to lose its way all through the aimless middle, on the way to a dramatic, all-revealing climax, a victim of its own cleverness.