|URBANIA Dir: Jon Shear US, 2000, 35mm, 103 mins Currently showing on Sky's Rialto Channel I've always been an absolute sucker for urban legends, so when this twisty psychological thriller – which intersperses tales of urban legends with one gay man's desire to create one of his very own – played at the Out Takes film festival a few years back, I was hooked.
Despite being aware of the films twists and turns, Urbania actually improves on repeat viewing, so for those of you who have seen it before, it's definitely worth checking out again. Director Jon Shear has created such a dense film that there are plenty of clues you'll have missed on first viewing. For those of you who haven't seen it, you're in for a knockout, but be sure to pay attention to the details. It's New Year's Eve and Charlie's relationship has recently come to an end. He's in something of a surreal daze, plagued by fractured memories of his past, and a story that seems incomplete. So tonight, he's going in search of the one man he believes can make everything right again. Charlie's journey through the menacing city on his long, dark night of the soul will include encounters with friends and strangers, each of whom have their own story to tell, and Charlie diverges from his own quest to play little mind games with each of them – like the hetero boofhead who lives in the apartment above him, or the closet-case gay soap actor who doesn't like to bottom and plays videos of his TV show to get himself in the mood. But it's Charlie's quest to be a living urban legend that lights the fire under Urbania, which interweaves black comedy and mystery elements to build to a horrifying, but ultimately cathartic, climax. Charlie is played by Dan Futterman, previously seen as the straight son of gay parents in The Birdcage. He's also played gay in several episodes of Will and Grace. Matt Keeslar, seen in drag artiste Charles Busch's homoerotic and simply mad Psycho Beach Party, plays Charlie's boyfriend, and gay actor Alan Cumming appears as Charlie's reclusive friend. Despite its low budget, Urbania has a wonderful sense of style, trapping the viewer inside a unsettling dream with an subtle undertone of dread throughout. In a gay film market that's flooded with romantic comedies and coming-out dramas, gay viewers are not often treated to the kind of well-crafted thrillers that straight audiences take for granted. It's a pity there's not more like it, and it's certainly one you'll think back on after the lights go out. Chris Banks - 10th January 2006