out of Five
Running time: 122
Stylish, imaginative and beautifully directed, this is a slow-moving but utterly mesmerising drama with terrific performances from Kidman and Downey Jnr.
What's it all about?
As the subtitle suggests, Fur presents an imaginary portrait of legendary photographer Diane Arbus. It's set in 1958 (the year Arbus began her career), when Diane (Nicole Kidman) is a housewife and mother, who works as an assistant to her fashion photographer husband Allan (Ty Burrell).
However, Diane is uncomfortable with her life and her hunger for something different leads her to forge a relationship with her new neighbour, a mysterious masked man named Lionel (Robert Downey Jnr).
As Diane meets Lionel's unusual friends and acquaintances, her confidence grows until she's ready to embark on her own artistic career, although she finds herself alienating her family in the process.
There isn't a huge amount of plot and the film moves extremely slowly, but it's never dull and there are several scenes and images that will stay with you long after you leave the cinema. It also has a superb score by Carter Burwell.
Fur is the eagerly awaited second feature from Stephen Shainberg who made Secretary, and he directs with the same strongly visual style, saturating the film with bright colours and making full use of some impressive set design work. Just to hammer home the imaginary element, he also packs the film full of references to both Beauty and the Beast and Alice in Wonderland, although in the case of Alice this backfires somewhat because there are just so many of them.
Kidman is terrific as Diane, effecting a thoroughly captivating transition from shy, emotionally fragile housewife to a confident, sexually curious artist, hungry to explore new worlds. Downey Jnr is equally good and his sensitive portrayal of Lionel is genuinely moving.
Shainberg's imaginative approach to Arbus' life pays off handsomely, resulting in a beautifully directed, stylish drama with superb performances. Highly recommended.
Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (15)