FUR – DVD Movie
List Price: $ 27.98
Price: $ 4.15
3 comments - What do you think?
January 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm
Arbus, Diane, Imaginary, Portrait
I didn’t realize, when I went to see this film, that the director
was also responsible for “Secretary”, but in retrospect this makes
perfect sense. Both films concern themselves with the twisted side
of humanity, or perhaps, the humanity of kink. “Fur” chronicles the
imaginary but convincing awakening of Diane Arbus to her true
fascination with the grotesque. Frustrated and oppressed by her
life as a vanilla 1950’s housewife, Diane yearns for something more.
She sees the bizarre and disturbing details in her surroundings that
others miss, but thus far has not had the courage to record her
When she catches a glimpse of Lionel (Robert Downney Jr.), completely
masked, she somehow recognizes him as the key to escaping her
suffocating life. He sends her the key to his apartment, through
the sewer pipes, an apt metaphor. Hesitant at first, then exuberant,
she surrenders to her true self, the beautiful, poised woman
surrounded by dwarves and siamese twins who is nevertheless, in
Lionel’s words, a “real freak”. For Diane, this is badge of
Diane’s fascination with the bizarre, and with Lionel, is intensely
sexual. The tension between the two protagonists is maintained
through the film, gradually turning to desperate longing.
Yet they hardly touch. Their inevitable coupling near the
end of the film seems anti-climatic. The real climax is the
terribly intimate and prolonged scene in which Diane shaves
Lionel’s entire body.
I’ll agree with other reviewers that the ending of the film
falters. Nevertheless, this movie touched me deeply, and I
recommend it highly.
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Nicole Kidman has made some brave career choices; some of these choices were both brave and bad (“Birth”), some were just bad (“Bewitched”, “Dogville”). She is clearly an actress willing to take a chance and occasionally, these pay off, providing a delightful, entertaining, unusual experience for the viewer. “Fur”, her new film directed by Steven Shainberg (“Secretary”), is not the best film she has ever been in and it isn’t the worse.
The late 50s. Diane Arbus (Kidman) lives with her husband, Allan (Ty Burrell), and their two daughters, in a large apartment in New York. They have converted part of the apartment into a photography studio and make a handsome living shooting covers for Vogue and ads for her father’s (Harris Yulin) fur shops. But Diane is unhappy and feels that her life is unfulfilled. She no longer finds joy helping load her husband’s camera, or fixing one of the model’s outfits. Allan suggests she take some time off, shoot some photos of her own. One night, she overhears a new neighbor moving in upstairs. Peering out the window, she spots the new tenant, Lionel (Robert Downey Jr.), paying the movers. She is intrigued; Lionel is covered from head to toe in clothing, a crocheted mask covering his face and head. She soon ventures up to his apartment and learns he is covered from head to toe in long hair, fur. Lionel intrigues her and introduces her to a variety of strange people she would never have otherwise met; midgets, giants, people with no arms, Siamese twins, and others you would have to go to the sideshow attractions at a circus to meet, at least during this period. She begins to feel more comfortable around these people, and grows more distant from her husband and children.
“Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus”, directed by Steven Shainberg, is an interesting, highly stylized portrait of perhaps one of the most enigmatic figures in modern art. Very little is known about the photographer; she didn’t talk about herself much and there seems to be a cone of silence around her as little has been said by any family member or friend. So Shainberg, and his screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson, working from a book by Patricia Bosworth, have fashioned a tale out what they were able to find out and attempt to paint a portrait of the influences that would shape what her photographs would become.
This is an interesting idea and helps to provide some idea of the photographer’s life. Lionel is, apparently, completely fictional, and proves as a sort of mentor, introducing her to people and things outside of her comfort zone, taking her out of her upper class New York world and showing her the type of people who would become her subjects.
Kidman’s portrayal of Arbus is very quiet. She goes from housewife and studio assistant, confused about her life, to a more adventurous woman, but still confused about her life. As she becomes more familiar with Lionel, and the people who inhabit his world, her eyes open wider, her smile grows, she seems to become alive. Yet, she also realizes she is drawing further and further away from her husband and children. How can she reconcile the two worlds? She can’t, and she has to make a decision.
Robert Downey Jr. also plays it quiet. He never speaks above a murmur and it is all but impossible to see his facial expressions throughout, as he is covered with fur. As they grow closer, he becomes more involved in her life, more interested in helping her push her boundaries.
The idea of painting a portrait of an artist, imagining what their influences were, is probably not far from what most artist biopics actually accomplish. How can we know what was going through Picasso’s (Anthony Hopkins) head as he painted in “Surviving Picasso”? How can we know what inspired painter Vermeer (Colin Firth) “The Girl With The Pearl Earring”? We can’t, unless they happened to keep detailed journals, and most artists used the canvas as their journal. So, while “Surviving Picasso” and “The Girl With A Pearl Earring” don’t purport to be biographies of the artist’s life, they do try to paint a portrait of these people at work, during specific periods, using real people in their life as characters in the films. “Fur” is not all that different. With the exception of Lionel, most of the film appears to be culled from what little detail could be learned about the enigmatic photographer’s life. The character of Lionel was created as a passport into her life and her world. There is a significant amount of dramatic license used in both types of films, but in “Fur”, the license is overt.
Director Shainberg seems to have a lot of fun depicting the oddball look of New York in the 50s. The guests at a party at the Arbus house and studio seem like they are desperate for any moment of fun, desperate for a laugh, everyone of them smoking, because it is the fashionable thing to do. At one point, Allan is composing…
From reading reviews here at Amazon and speaking to other movie goers, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is one of those films where depending on the personality/likes/dislikes of the viewer, you’ll either love it or hate it. I personally loved it. Loved the acting of the entire cast, loved the costuming, directing, make-up and cinematography.
I love a great love story. Please note, that the title clearly states that this is “An IMAGINARY Portrait of Diane Arbus”. Perhaps another film maker wants to tackle a different, more true-to-life version at some point in the future, but in this particular take of her life, the real Diane serves mearly as a loosly based mold for the Diane of this film.
For me personally, this was one of those films that stuck with me for days after I saw it at the theater. I thought it was brilliant! It reminded me a bit of the ’80’s T.V. show “Beaty and the Beast”.
My suggestion? Rent this before you buy it. If you love it, you’ll watch it again and again and will definetly want to purchase it.
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