Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait Of Diane Arbus (2006)

Life Is But A Dream

- When first catching sight of the title of the 2006 film Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus, one immediately thinks that it will be both imaginary and a portrait. However, before the viewer is able to jump to any more crazy assumptions, the film begins with an attempt to prepare the viewer for what they will experience with Fur, displaying a disclaimer in a Surgeon General warning sort of way:

"This film is about Diane Arbus, but it is not a historical biography."

Filled with fantasy aspects, Fur is "a tribute to Diane." Including little about the real Diane Arbus, Fur combines Beauty and the Beast and Alice In Wonderland and attempts to create a fantasy story with no actual portrait of Diane Arbus.

Before she begins her photography career, Diane Arbus (Nicole Kidman) was unhappy with her second fiddle life as her husband's assistant and housewife, staggering to find an answer to the question "What do you do?" and stuck in a snooty and stuffy upper class. One day however, Diane meets and falls in love with Lionel Sweeney (Robert Downey Jr.), a man with a syndrome that covers his entire body with hair.

Yeah, I was creeped out too - but it actually gets worse than just that later on.

In the film, the viewer is basically taken along with Diane as Lionel gives her a tour of his world filled with the out-of-the-ordinary, feeding her interest for the unusual that would later be expressed through her photographs. The Diane Arbus in Fur is more of a grown-up Alice from Alice In Wonderland than the real life Diane Arbus; however, if you take Fur as a total fantasy film instead of a combination of fantasy and reality, then that may not be so bad - but I still personally found it bad. The love story between Arbus and Sweeney is just a little too bizarre for me - and the film's featured graphic nudity did not exactly float my boat either (there's something very unbeautiful about the naked human form when a bunch of naked human forms get together inside a "colony"). But hey, if you like nudist colonies or are of the mind that it is romantic if someone makes a coat out of their own hair and gives it to their loved one, maybe Fur will not seem so bad.

While some aspects of Fur are not the best, or even watchable, there are many other positive aspects. For one thing, the film looks great with interesting cinematography and outstanding set decoration that bring this fantasy world to life. Also,
composer Carter Burwell writes one of his best scores ever for Fur, calm but very atmospheric and adding a tremendous amount to the film's overall good.

As good as the music and visuals are, the lead performances from Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr. are the absolute highlight in Fur. When Diane is feeling trapped in her family life or free in her exploration of the fantasy world with Lionel, you believe it through Kidman's emotionally-packed performance. Robert Downey Jr. also does a great job with his portrayal of Lionel Sweeney, with most of his performance coming just from his eyes and his quiet manner of speaking (because he is covered in hair).

Fur is not going to be a film that everyone will enjoy. The film certainly has a lot of odd components - a few that I definitely did not particularly enjoy watching. However, with great leading actors, music and look, Fur is a well-assembled film despite the fact that the featured story is bizarre and not so portrait-like.

CBC Rating: 6/10

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