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There Is Power in a Union

A highly talented filmmaker, Radtke draws intense, focused performances from these two inexperienced young actors. The supporting cast, however, is less credible. Radtke brings to the film a firsthand knowledge of life on the road, infusing it with small surprises from beginning to end. He also has a great feel for the look of the land, although occasionally he strains for effect. Not even John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart could have gone mano a mano against the vast expanse of the Utah salt flats without looking slightly silly.


Another update on genre but of a more noirish variety, Jon Shear's Urbania, adapted from Daniel Reitz's play, traffics almost exclusively in a single psychological state: anxiety. Shear wants to evoke that dreadful moment when, struggling to awake from a bad dream, you remember that your real life is more of a nightmare.

Scene from the class struggle: Lespert and Vallod in Human Resources
photo: Shooting Gallery
Scene from the class struggle: Lespert and Vallod in Human Resources

Details

Human Resources
Directed by Laurent Cantet
Written by Cantet and Gilles Marchand
A Shooting Gallery Film Series at Loews Cineplex Entertainment release
Opens September 15

The Dream Catcher
Directed by Ed Radtke
Written by Radtke and M.S. Nieson
Walter Reade
September 15 through 22

Urbania
Directed by Jon Shear
Written by Daniel Reitz and Shear

On another level, it's a film about storytelling, about the stories you tell yourself and everyone else to avoid dealing with what's really eating you up inside. The stories that preoccupy Charlie (Dan Futterman), the film's protagonist, are all urban legends: the dog exploding in the microwave; the prostitute who slips you a mickey in order to steal your kidney. Relayed through fantasy, dream, and flashback sequences, the stories camouflage the terrible event that has irrevocably changed Charlie's life, until, at a point that will differ for each viewer, it becomes clear that Charlie is gay and that he's lost his lover and that somehow violence is part of the picture.

Ambitious, if overly theatrical in its structure, the film puts a twist in noir by excavating the castration anxiety and homoeroticism that usually remain buried in the subtext. Shear suggests the hallucinatory quality of Charlie's experience by combining film and video in a way that heightens color contrast and destabilizes space. Striking cameos by Alan Cumming, Barbara Sukowa, and half a dozen others lift the burden of carrying the film from Futterman, whose lack of affect is not, I suspect, entirely attributable to playing a character suffering from post-traumatic stress. Urbania derails toward the end, becoming platitudinous, not to mention kitschy, but, given the Cheerios wholesomeness of most gay indies, its grief-stricken delirium is a welcome relief.

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