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Fur - An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus
Fur - An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus
Actors: Nicole Kidman, Robert Downey Jr., Ty Burrell, Harris Yulin, Jane Alexander
Director: Steven Shainberg
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
R     2007     2hr 2min

From the window of her immaculate New York apartment, lonely housewife Diane Arbus (Kidman) locks eyes with a masked figure on the street, a mysterious new neighbor (Downey, Jr.) whose penetrating gaze strips the veneer of...  more »

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Movie Details

Actors: Nicole Kidman, Robert Downey Jr., Ty Burrell, Harris Yulin, Jane Alexander
Director: Steven Shainberg
Creators: Alessandro Camon, Andrew Fierberg, Bill Pohlad, Bonnie Timmermann, Edward R. Pressman, Erin Cressida Wilson, Patricia Bosworth
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: New Line Home Video
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 05/08/2007
Original Release Date: 01/01/2006
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2006
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 2hr 2min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 1
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English

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Member Movie Reviews

George K. from COLCHESTER, CT
Reviewed on 4/21/2020...
What a movie!

Read the jacket cover. It's an imaginary portrait of this artist as she transitions emotionally from drab studio sidekick into an artist.

The story: Diane Arbus is feeling dissatisfied with her role as photographer's assistant to her successful commercial photographer husband. That much is accurate. When she meets Lionel Sweeney (a fictional character based on either the famous dog-faced boy or his father), the movie shifts into fantasy. Sweeney introduces Arbus to a world of sideshow freaks and an underworld that, as a wealthy heiress, she would never have encountered in her regular Manhattan life.

Kidman's Arbus revels in her introduction to the bizarre, freakish, and edgy subjects of her photography. An underlying, powerful sensuality moves her close to Downey's hair-laden character, and the outcome is somewhere between shocking and lovely.

Don't consider viewing this movie with your prudish friends unless you want to enjoy their gasps and outrage.
Wendy B. from MICANOPY, FL
Reviewed on 11/20/2011...
This movie was unbelievable in a good way... Wow. Really haunting, profound, intense, erotic... Whew!
Gary J. from LITTLE ROCK, AR
Reviewed on 3/11/2010...
Well done. Different subject matter than most biographical dramas. Recommended.
Daniel A. (Daniel) from EUGENE, OR
Reviewed on 2/8/2010...
Beautifully twisted, like a haunting erotic Alice in Wonderland. Both lead performances are fantastic. A worthy tribute to the portraits by Diane Arbus.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

Fascinating and erotic
Sally E. Goldin | 02/11/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"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."
Quirky, Interesting, But Ultimately Unfulfilling | Venice, CA United States | 11/15/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"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 the models for an ad and we see a look at what the finished ad might look like and it brilliantly evokes the advertising of this age, six almost identical women, each standing behind an ironing board, each wearing the same clothing, but in different primary colors. Then, as Diane becomes more involved in Lionel's world, the décor has a more hand me down look, as though everything was purchased at a flea market or garage sale.

While the film is interesting to watch, a certain fairy tale quality is pervasive, the reason behind the central relationship is vague and unsatisfying. I get that Diane is intrigued by Lionel, but the reason for the unhappiness with her husband and her marriage is never really explained. She has a breakdown, but why? Late in the film, she spends a significant amount of time shaving Lionel, revealing the man beneath, essentially erasing the very thing she was attracted to in the first place. "Fur" can't seem to decide what it wants to say about Diane Arbus' feelings.

And because feelings are such a huge part of the make-up of most artists, "Fur" doesn't reveal enough.
Director | CA United States | 01/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I would 1st of all change the title to "HAIR or The Inner World of Diane Arbus". I think the title, FUR may have left a bunch of people out. The film is SPECTACULAR! Simply AMAZING! Rich in Detail and the inner life, inspiration and passion of a human being. Anyone who judges this film from a biographical perspective or a realistic point of view will be disappointed - but this film surpasses all of that! In delves into a RICH, DEEPER world of the heart of the artist in all of us! Nicole Kidman, as always, delivers 100%, along with the subtle, gentle and elegant acting from Robert Downey Jr. Ty Burrell is truly and fully captivating as the husband who no longer has emotions to fulfill his wife. Steven's directing is mesmerizing, filled with brilliant detail, structured continuity and encompassing all of the human senses.