Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus

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Still of Nicole Kidman and Ty Burrell in Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane ArbusStill of Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr. in Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane ArbusNicole Kidman and Steven Shainberg at event of Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane ArbusStill of Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr. in Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane ArbusStill of Nicole Kidman in Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane ArbusStill of Nicole Kidman in Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus

Turning her back on her wealthy, established family, Diane Arbus falls in love with Lionel Sweeney, an enigmatic mentor who introduces Arbus to the marginalized people who help her become one of the most revered photographers of the twentieth century.

Release Year: 2006

Rating: 6.2/10 (8,185 voted)

Critic's Score: 50/100

Director: Steven Shainberg

Stars: Nicole Kidman, Robert Downey Jr., Ty Burrell

In 1958, in New York City, the upper class Diane Arbus is a frustrated and lonely woman with a conventional marriage with two daughters. Her husband is a photographer sponsored by the wealthy parents of Diane, and she works as his assistant. When Lionel Sweeney, a mysterious man with hypertrichosis (a.k.a. werewolf syndrome, a disease that causes excessive body hair), comes to live in the apartment in the upper floor, Diane feels a great attraction for him and is introduced to the world of freaks and marginalized people, falling in love with Lionel.

Writers: Erin Cressida Wilson, Patricia Bosworth

Nicole Kidman - Diane Arbus
Robert Downey Jr. - Lionel Sweeney
Ty Burrell - Allan Arbus
Harris Yulin - David Nemerov
Jane Alexander - Gertrude Nemerov
Emmy Clarke - Grace Arbus
Genevieve McCarthy - Sophie Arbus
Boris McGiver - Jack Henry
Marceline Hugot - Tippa Henry
Mary Duffy - Althea
Emily Bergl - Allan's New Assistant
Lynn-Marie Stetson - Fiona (Naked Girl) (as Lynn Marie Stetson)
Gwendolyn Bucci - Dominatrix
Christina Rouner - Lois
Matt Servitto - Handsome Client


Official Website: Metropolitan Films [France] | Picturehouse |

Release Date: 20 October 2006

Filming Locations: East 54th Street Recreation Center, New York City, New York, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $16,800,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $28,815 (USA) (12 November 2006) (4 Screens)

Gross: $2,281,089 (Worldwide) (6 January 2008)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

MGM optioned the biography upon which this film is based ("Arbus") in 1984 as a possible starring vehicle for Diane Keaton.

Anachronisms: One of the negatives that Mr. Arbus is developing is a Kodak T-MAX 400, which was not available in 1958.

Diane Arbus: What is it?
Lionel Sweeney: Well, every month or so I'm able to breathe about five percent less. My lungs are disintegrating. It's getting harder and harder for me to breathe... deeply. In a matter of months, I'll drown without even swimming, because there'll be nothing left... of my lungs.
Diane Arbus: You're not dying.
Lionel Sweeney: Yes, I am.
Diane Arbus: No, you're not.

User Review

A " Must See Again" Film

Rating: 10/10

Had I taken to heart what the movie reviewer in my local paper had written about this film (and his 2.5 star rating) -- I would not have gone. Fortunately, I checked out IMDb and read that someone had compared it to Jean Cocteau's avant-garde "La Belle et La Bete." Enough said. That commendation, and armed, as I was, with the knowledge that Nicole Kidman has done some exceptional films in recent years (particularly "The Hours," "The Others," and one of my all-time favourite psychological thrillers, "Dead Calm"), I was off to the local art film theatre to join the sparse (perhaps a dozen?) audience of viewers.

In short, this film has set the bar extremely high re: all other films I will see in 2007. One finds not only the influence of Cocteau in the film, but also of Kubrick, Hitchcock, and even of Maya Deren. (ie: there is a stunning image of Kidman/Arbus crawling out of the sea -- a few moments of sheer poetry -- that are reminiscent of Deren's "At Land.") (Also, perhaps a little Jane Campion with the underwater shots near the end.)

This is a decidedly painterly film, with everything from Arbus's dresses to the evocative interiors of Lionel's museum/carnival-like apartment and the film's textures worthy of commentary in both film classes and post-film chats with friends. Contrasts are integral to this film. The paint-peeled walls provide an interesting contrast with the elegant satins and aristocratic dining accoutrement (tea pot, cup), and parallel Lionel's declining health. Arbus's smooth skin vs. Lionel's fur. The staged symmetry of Arbus's husband's white-washed, commercial photography vs. the brilliant chaos in Lionel's apartment. Arbus's wealthy, "proper" parents vs. Lionel's menagerie of "freaks". Many of the shots are framed in interesting, geometrical or architectural ways, or echo camera apertures. The use of the colour blue in some scenes is breathtaking.

Great line -- (not verbatim): Allan Arbus -- "I'm a normal guy, now I have a hole in my ceiling and freaks coming through it."

I also felt the chemistry between the principal characters (a rarity), and believe the pacing greatly attributed to the overall success of the film. The framing -- with the nudist camp -- underscored the change/growth in the protagonist.

As my 20 year old daughter said upon leaving the theatre -- "This is the kind of film that really makes you want to live the life you were meant to." Here here. "Fur" gets five big, bold, blazing stars. It is, quite simply, brilliant. Please, tell your friends.


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