- Actors: Nicole Kidman, Robert Downey Jr, Ty Burrell, Harris Yulin, Jane Alexander
- Directors: Steven Shainberg
- Producers: Laura Bickford, Patricia Bosworth, Andrew Fierberg, William Pohlad, Bonnie Timmermann
- Format: PAL
- Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Studio: Eiv
- DVD Release Date: 23 July 2007
- Run Time: 121 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 26 customer reviews
- ASIN: B000NJXBWW
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,351 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
Fur - An Imaginary Portrait Of Diane Arbus [DVD]
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An imagined biography of photographer Diane Arbus' transformation from '50s housewife to legendary snapper of life's more 'unusual' portraits. Diane Arbus (Nicole Kidman) is unhappily married mother to two children, Her mother and father are socialite fur-sellers and her husband Alan (Ty Burrell) a renowned studio photographer. Since childhood Diane has been hopelessly drawn to the unusual and when encouraged to take some pictures herself she seeks a subject that will speak aloud her worldview - that of people on the margins, the unusual and erotic. Opportunity knocks when a mysterious masked man moves into the flat upstairs. Diane is compelled to meet him. She takes a camera upstairs under the guise of photographer wanting to capture her new neighbour on film. The dapper and charming Lionel Sweeney (Robert Downey Jr.), it transpires, has a rare disorder, hypertrichosis, that covers him head to toe in thick, lustrous hair that he harvests to make high-class wigs. Arbus is completely enslaved by Lionel's sheer difference and is soon finding any excuse to enter his world. A former circus sideshow himself, Lionel has a circle of friends and clients ranging from an armless woman to midgets, transvestites and a giant - all of whom utterly fascinate his new pal. Fur, however far from the true events it may be, is a tender portrayal of human compassion and of a woman pursuing art against great odds.
Modeled loosely on Patricia Bosworth's 1984 biography, Fur opens with an independent, working Diane Arbus (Nicole Kidman), free of the familial restraints that previously prevented her from making art. Flashing back three months, the viewer comes to learn that she has just left her husband and children to photographically investigate her fetishes through observing the extraordinary. When Lionel (Robert Downey Jr.), a wig-maker who suffers from hypertrichosis, or excessive hair growth, moves into Arbus's apartment building with his entourage and basement full of carnival props, Arbus is seduced by this opportunity to visually feast on freaks. The split with her conventional family becomes inevitable. Confusing love with her desire to make art, Arbus is overwhelmed when Lionel perishes, though its made clear to the viewer that this event provides Arbus necessary artistic impetus.
Early scenes establishing Arbus's distaste for society parties, such as the fur fashion show her parents host, her boredom during her husband's dull, ridiculous commercial photo shoots, and her initial fascination with Lionel and his bizarre friends are strange and funny, successfully separating Arbus from the 'average' people surrounding her. But as Lionel and Arbus fall in love, pretentious whispering replaces their regular conversations, and overacting spoils Lionel's death scene, in which they both float dramatically through the ocean, followed by Arbus crying in the surf like a weenie. Arbus desperately huffing air from a life raft Lionel inflated before he died is completely cheesy. The tortured artist myth has, once again, been pushed too far.
For a film that has such fine costuming, production design, and cinematography, it's a shame that Fur succumbs to that Hollywood convention of reducing the entire plot to a tragic love story. For a project with so much potential, and with so many Arbus fans eagerly awaiting this tribute to the great photographer, it's unfortunate that Fur falls flat, due mostly to injected sentimental melodrama in scenes where it has no place. If Arbus sought to expel saccharine emotionality from portrait photography, then it's odd that a biopic dedicated to her memory would be so unabashedly corny. --Trinie Dalton
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Fur (2006), which makes its intentions clear with the subtitle "an imaginary portrait of Diane Arbus", takes on a similar approach to the films aforementioned; blending elements of personal fact and actual biographical detail with a story that is pure, fairy tale fabrication. Having watched the film just a few days ago, I browsed the Internet for previous reviews to get a sense of how other audiences had approached it. In doing so, I was quite shocked and surprised to see just how violently some viewers had reacted to the film; citing everything from the liberal approach of the film's script, the central performance from Nicole Kidman, and the fundamental message that seems implied by the film's very tender sense of emotional drama as reasons why this film was worthless or simply not good. This surprised me for two reasons, firstly; that these intelligent and well-versed viewers were unable to separate the elements of fact surrounding the real life Diane Arbus and her extraordinary body of work from the quite clearly fabricated depiction of grotesque beauty that the filmmakers create through the imagined relationship between our caricature of Diane and a character named Lionel; a mysterious former carnival performer. Secondly, it surprised me that these viewers felt that Arbus's life would be better served by a routine, by the books Hollywood biopic in which all the facts and back stories are simplified, and we end up with a very simple film about the triumph of the little guy against all odds.
Do people really want bland, cookie-cutter, connect the dots cinema; a struggle over adversary and all the usual nonsense that comes with those A-Z, biographical features, such as Walk the Line (2005) and Ray (2004)? Sadly, it would appear so. What happened to audiences craving imaginative, free-thinking cinema? Something that attempts to deconstruct a greater truth in an intelligent, imaginative and emotionally captivating way that is genuinely suited to the visual, metaphorical capabilities that cinema presents. For me, everything you would need to know about Arbus is here and everything you would need to know about her art is divulged in a number of interesting, highly imaginative visual quirks. You just have to scratch beneath the surface. Read between the lines and you'll see with this film the very psychological impulse and motivation to create something beautiful from the seemingly mundane; to capture that all too fleeting moment and preserve it on film forever. Fur, for me, took us inside the psychological world of Arbus, with none of the black and white moralising or textbook type tedium that often plagues this particular genre; but instead, showing us some of the potential ideas and imagined situations that came to instil her work with such a grotesque sense of beauty.
It has a long been said; "every picture tells a story". That's what this film is about. Anyone can read a book about the real life Arbus; but how on earth is that enriching the cinematic medium? I personally don't look to cinema to find something that is readily available to me at my local library. This film takes us inside Arbus' world and gives us a beautifully told and imaginative back-story that blends elements of real-life fact with references to gothic literature, fairy stories, history and the subjective power of the art itself. The creative spirit of this film is exactly in tune with Arbus's creative vision. To give us something like the Rocky (1976) of photographer-themed biographical pictures would, to my mind at least, have been a much greater insult to the unique and continually captivating universe that this particular artist created through her work. You may disagree with the approach, or fail to see the appeal of the story, but for me, Fur is the kind of film that I feel I could go back to again and still find a number of things worth raving about; including ideas and themes that I may have missed before.
Like one of Arbus's iconic pictures, Fur presents us with something seemingly drab, seemingly bizarre, and allows us to take the time to see the inherent beauty behind it. Like the work of Diane Arbus itself, you can choose to see it as something unfeeling or exploitative, or alternatively, you can see it as a gateway into understanding the enormous amount of empathy that Arbus had for her bizarre and often extraordinary subjects. The direction manages to create a mood and an ambience that is halfway between the aforementioned William S. Burroughs and the antiseptic 50's Americana of The Bell Jar, with the otherworldly danger and mystique of a film like Pan's Labyrinth (2006). Alongside these stylistic elements we also have continual references to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the notion of Beauty and the Beast, and all tied together by the fine performances from Kidman as the shackled, stifled Arbus and Robert Downey Jr. as the mysterious and sympathetic Lionel. Truly, an intelligent, imaginative and captivating piece of work.
"Fur" was directed by Steven Shainberg, who also directed the kinky Secretary. He seems to have a bit of the Arbus spirit in his own soul. Shainberg does an excellent job at capturing the tension inherent in Arbus's point of view, as she takes her first tentative steps from the mainstream into an under culture which both excites and terrifies her.The presence of Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey provides some real heft to this project, but the film still ultimately fails - for two reasons: First, Downey's wolf man make-up is a bit awkward when it should convey dark mystery and an ominous sense that the forbidden and outré are nearer than they seem. The film works perfectly when Downey is covered by grotesque masks, but falls apart when the teenage werewolf faces the camera squarely and makes you wonder. Second, the film drags on and on as we wait for Diane's transformation and then fails to show us the results after the great awakening finally arrives. It feels as if the Ben Hogan story ended with the car accident and a question about whether he could ever come back. In fact, the film never shows any examples of the art which Diane would develop after her cultural epiphany. "Fur" is Diane Arbus without the photographs, just as the recent Paltrow movie was Sylvia Plath without the poems.
It might be a better movie if it had committed to being 100% fictional or 100% biographical. With a better make-up job on the Beast, the movie could stand by itself with no reference at all to Diane Arbus as the Beauty, since it treats the biographical details as mere background elements in the dream-tale of how the Arbus metamorphosis might theoretically have happened. As it stands, Fur is an earnest and slick art film with only cult appeal. Most people are reluctant to watch a pretentious real biography of a tortured artist, let alone a make-believe version of same.
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