Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus **1/2
If there is anything to really say about "Fur" it's that it has the guts to do something unique. This is based on a real life woman, but the events in this film are all a creation of director Steven Shainberg, who opens his film with a small disclaimer: The events in this film are based on the real life woman Diane Arbus. While these are not the actual events that happened to Arbus, they are possibly what was going on in his head at this point in her life. Sadly for the viewer, it is obvious that what happens in this film was not happening in her life, and you'll understand why once you read the plot line.
Yes, Diane Arbus was a real person. We've established that. And to begin, it's actually pronounced Di-Anne, with the "A'' being a part of the second syllable. Diane is the assistant to a photographer who happens to be her husband and father of her children. She enjoys her work for the most part, but begins to question it when a reporter asks what kinds of pictures she takes. And then she looks out the window and discovers that there is going to be a new neighbor moving into the house upstairs, and when Diane notices him parking his car in the front, she is drawn right away to him. And why? Could it be the giant mask that he wears on his head? It could be. She ends up going upstairs at one point after she discovers a giant wad of thick dark hair in her pipes. She is surprised to learn that this man knows her name, and even tells her to come back the next day. She does, and the two start a strange friendship. His name is Lionel, and he is a nice man-a wig creator by trade, and he also happens to be covered in thick dark hair from head to toe. Diane begins to want to take pictures of her own, and decides to do a portrait study on her neighbors. Her husband begins to become upset by her associations with Lionel's friends, who are all, for lack of a better word, freaks. And both of them wonder if her new hobby is going to cost the entire family.
In the end, "Fur" is a failure. It is an experiment that just doesn't work out, and I can't really explain why. Perhaps it is the fact that I know this never happened to Ms. Arbus? Or perhaps its because I found it a bit of an insult to her memory. . . .I mean why did it have to be Diane Arbus. Why not just the fictional story of a woman drawn to a man covered in fur? The fact that the film is an entire lie seems a little cruel to Diane Arbus, and it left a sour taste in my throat. I just know that Diane Arbus did not suddenly decide to want to become a photographer after falling in love with Chewbacca's stunt double. It's also far too overlong, and the scenes between Diane and Lional tend to go on forever, especially towards the end.
But don't get me wrong! There is alot of good here, and as I said before, the film is something to admire. Nicole Kidman as Diane is wonderful-beautiful enough to understand why Lionel is drawn to her, and at the same time plain enough to sometimes go around unnoticed. And then Robert Downy Jr is fine too, in a role that mostly has his voice being used, as we can't even see his face. Carter Burwell's score fits the mood perfectly. Burwell always has interesting music, and this strange mood is exactly his style. And then there is the set design, where it's obvious that each shot was given great care and attention. The opening scenes, the ones where we are introduced to the lifestyle that Arbus leads, are stunning visuals in there repetition. We understand the humdrum life that Diane leads just by looking at the wallpaper. And lastly, I enjoyed "Fur" because it stood out on a limb and tried to do something of its own. It may have been a failure, but at least it failed at trying something new instead of sticking to the same formula. And that's exactly what movies need nowadays. We need something daring, something different, and something unusual. They could fail, but at least they try, and that's all we can ask of it. . .