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|Fur An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Steven Shainberg|
scr Erin Cressida Wilson
with Nicole Kidman, Robert Downey Jr, Ty Burrell, Jane Alexander, Harris Yulin, Emmy Clarke, Genevieve McCarthy, Mary Duffy, Gwendolyn Bucci, Eric Gingold, Boris McGiver, Emily Bergl
release US 10.Nov.06,
07/US Picturehouse 2h02
Smiles everybody: Kidman and Burrell
The writer and director of Secretary return with an even more inventive and audacious follow-up, which distributors are clearly unsure how to market. It may be an adventurous oddity, but mainstream audiences tired of watching the same movie over and over again would love this.
In 1958 New York, Diane Arbus (Kidman) assists her husband Allan (Burrell) in his commercial photography studio. She also tries to live up to her social standing as daughter of wealthy fur-shop owners (Alexander and Yulin). When Lionel (Downey) moves in upstairs her artistic curiosity is piqued, and she decides to meet him and take his portrait. But since he has a condition that makes him grow thick hair all over his body, he doesn't exactly fit into her ordered world.
As the title says, this isn't a literal biography. It's a figurative story about how Arbus opened the artist within herself, and went on to become one of the century's greatest photographers with her bracing portraits of people outside so-called civilised society. Wilson's script cleverly merges the facts with heavy doses of fiction to show us Arbus' inner journey, stirring beautiful parallels to Alice in Wonderland and Beauty and the Beast all the way through (although some of these references become rather heavy-handed).
Kidman is perfectly cast in the role, balancing her physical elegance with an inner grit and determination that's expressed brilliantly through her entire physicality. Even the way she breathes her dialog offers a glimpse into Arbus' internal world. And the sparky Downey uses his expressive eyes to wonderful effect, partly because that's all we can see through his fur. Burrell even has a strongly layered role as a man who understands that his wife needs more than he can offer.
Director Shainberg films it beautifully, with striking production design, gorgeously textured cinematography (by Bill Pope) and an astonishing sound mix. Meanwhile, the emotional impact is reminiscent of Julianne Moore's storylines in both Far From Heaven and The Hours, people breaking free from constricted situations. These are themes that everyone can identify with, especially when they're expressed with such intelligence and artistry.
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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