Friday, March 16, 2007

FUR: AN IMAGINARY PORTRAIT OF DIANE ARBUS - what the heck just happened here?!

From the writer and director of indie cult hit SECRETARY and the director of photography of THE MATRIX and TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE comes a movie so off-the-wall that I left the cinema perplexed as to what I had just witnessed.

At first glance, FUR is another of those dramas about a conventional nineteen-fifties housewife who battles depression to find sexual and personal freedom. But this time, instead of Julianne Moore as Mrs Brown we have Nicole Kidman as notorious but acclaimed documentary photographer, Diane Arbus. She's married to a loving husband who supports her development as a photographer, even when she turns their studio into a salon for ex-circus freak show performers. In this fictional riff on the emotional life of the real Diane Arbus, our movie-Diane finds her true self through a friendship with a wig-maker called Lionel. Lionel has a genetic disorder resulting in him being super-normally hirsute. In short, while he has Robert Downey Junior's mournful eyes, he looks like Chewbacca in a rather fruity suit.

So, this upper-middle class housewife is allowed to develop her taste for exhibitionism and voyeurism. Kidman plays her with such a naive simplicity that we believe that she simply finds all these people beautiful and fascinating. Within the context of her love affair with Lionel - and the whimsical, enchanting tone of the film - that holds up. But I'm sure that some viewers familiar with the controversial nature of Arbus' work will regard the film-makers as side-stepping the exploitation issue.

My problem with FUR is more prosaic. I admire the bravery and originality of the film-makers in daring to make a psychological rather than generic biopic. I love the production design and the lead actors do well with unusual material. But this is a *long* picture. Over two hours, despite the fact that all that really happens is that a stifled, happily married woman, summons up the courage to fall in love. The film-makers are perfectly at liberty to excise the boring old biographical details; the actual photographs; the controversy; the suicide; the legacy.....Sure, they are free to fashion a whimsical love story, but ye gods, if that's all we have, can't we move things along a little?

FUR: AN IMAGINARY PORTRAIT OF DIANE ARBUS was released in the US, Italy and Israel in 2006. It opened in Greece, Belgium, France, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Mexico and Sweden earlier this year. It is currently on release in the UK and Finland and opens in Japan on May 19th.

No comments:

Post a Comment