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Fur - An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus

3.6 out of 5 stars 115 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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 off her tidy reality. Mysteriously drawn to the man that intrigues her and determined to take his photograph, Diane ventures to his apartment and embarks on a journey that will unlock her deepest secrets, awaken her remarkable artistic genius, and launches Diane on her path to becoming the artist she is meant to be.


Modeled loosely on Patricia Bosworth's 1984 biography, Fur opens with an independent, working Diane Arbus (Nicole Kidman), free of the familial restraints that previously prevented her from making art. Flashing back three months, the viewer comes to learn that she has just left her husband and children to photographically investigate her fetishes through observing the extraordinary. When Lionel (Robert Downey Jr.), a wig-maker who suffers from hypertrichosis, or excessive hair growth, moves into Arbus's apartment building with his entourage and basement full of carnival props, Arbus is seduced by this opportunity to visually feast on freaks. The split with her conventional family becomes inevitable. Confusing love with her desire to make art, Arbus is overwhelmed when Lionel perishes, though its made clear to the viewer that this event provides Arbus necessary artistic impetus. Early scenes establishing Arbus's distaste for society parties, such as the fur fashion show her parents host, her boredom during her husband's dull, ridiculous commercial photo shoots, and her initial fascination with Lionel and his bizarre friends are strange and funny, successfully separating Arbus from the 'average' people surrounding her. But as Lionel and Arbus fall in love, pretentious whispering replaces their regular conversations, and overacting spoils Lionel's death scene, in which they both float dramatically through the ocean, followed by Arbus crying in the surf like a weenie. Arbus desperately huffing air from a life raft Lionel inflated before he died is completely cheesy. The tortured artist myth has, once again, been pushed too far. For a film that has such fine costuming, production design, and cinematography, it's a shame that Fur succumbs to that Hollywood convention of reducing the entire plot to a tragic love story. For a project with so much potential, and with so many Arbus fans eagerly awaiting this tribute to the great photographer, it's unfortunate that Fur falls flat, due mostly to injected sentimental melodrama in scenes where it has no place. If Arbus sought to expel saccharine emotionality from portrait photography, then it's odd that a biopic dedicated to her memory would be so unabashedly corny.--Trinie Dalton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Nicole Kidman, Robert Downey Jr., Ty Burrell, Harris Yulin, Jane Alexander
  • Directors: Steven Shainberg
  • Writers: Erin Cressida Wilson, Patricia Bosworth
  • Producers: Adam Brightman, Alessandro Camon, Andrew Fierberg, Bill Pohlad, Bonnie Timmermann
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: New Line Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: May 8, 2007
  • Run Time: 122 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000NO1XG8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,201 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Fur - An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sally E. Goldin on February 10, 2007
Verified Purchase
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.
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From reading reviews here at Amazon and speaking to other movie goers, I've come to the conclusion that this is one of those films where depending on the personality/likes/dislikes of the viewer, you'll either love it or hate it. I personally loved it. Loved the acting of the entire cast, loved the costuming, directing, make-up and cinematography.

I love a great love story. Please note, that the title clearly states that this is "An IMAGINARY Portrait of Diane Arbus". Perhaps another film maker wants to tackle a different, more true-to-life version at some point in the future, but in this particular take of her life, the real Diane serves mearly as a loosly based mold for the Diane of this film.

For me personally, this was one of those films that stuck with me for days after I saw it at the theater. I thought it was brilliant! It reminded me a bit of the '80's T.V. show "Beaty and the Beast".

My suggestion? Rent this before you buy it. If you love it, you'll watch it again and again and will definetly want to purchase it.
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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.
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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.
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