Fur: An Imaginary Portrait Of Diane Arbus
- Eddie Harrison
- 13 March 2007
Director Steven Shainberg broke plenty of taboos a few years ago with his sado-masochistic love story Secretary, and he’s clearly been emboldened to create an even more outré romance in Fur. It’s hard to imagine, however, that the estate of Diane Arbus were too thrilled when they saw Shainberg’s über-weird ‘tribute’ to the celebrated photographer, which is anything but the straight biopic they might have envisaged. Shainberg’s film is rooted in New York, 1958, and projects a strange fantasy about how Arbus found her creative groove, but there are no actual Arbus pictures on show, and Nicole Kidman makes little attempt to resemble Arbus. Instead, Shainberg throws his heroine into a truly bizarre love triangle involving her staid husband Allan (Ty Burrell) and her mysteriously masked neighbour Lionel (played by Robert Downey Jr in a hirsute make-up job) every time he’s on screen.
Creeping out somewhat shamefacedly after being firmly ignored in the awards season, Fur offers a deliciously perverse evocation on 1950’s female repression set against a kinky sex fantasy. Kidman doesn’t have much to go on in such a daft ‘beauty and the beast’ scenario, but while Shainberg’s film is too long-winded and silly to fully engage, its visual style makes it a genuine curiosity. If we learn anything from this kooky love story, it is to ask to read the script if Shainberg ever comes knocking and offers to make a film in tribute to your life.