Telluride ’06: Fur
Discussion after late-night movies happens on the gondola ride from the Chuck Jones Theater in the mountains to the town of Telluride, in the valley between them. It’s pitch black inside the car; outside are only stars and the golden lights below; inside are eight (usually random) cinephiles thrown together in a dark moving box for 15 minutes.
Tonight the discussion was about Fur, the Diane Arbus biopic starring Nicole Kidman in another daring career choice. As one of the voices in the darkness said on the gondola ride, Kidman has “guts.” This is not your conventional biopic (thank Jesus). Its world premiere ended a short while ago, and it redeemed the genre for me. It’s not a great film, but it is a good one, and certainly better than the rash of music biopics that stumbled into our field of vision in the past couple years. Fur is by the director of Secretary, Steven Shainberg, who was in the audience. Both his films exist beyond weirdness.
I don’t believe in spoiling the particulars of movies, so let’s say this: Fur is not a movie about performances or imitations, so don’t expect to be blown away by Kidman’s acting, which is appropriately subdued and reactionary. Fur is a movie to devour with your eyes and ears. The production value is top-knotch. It’s painterly, as well as photography-ly. Carter Burwell, as always, comes through with a beautiful score. This is a movie that slowly reveals itself to you — watching it has the same effect as putting your eyes close to an impressionist painting and slowly backing up. What I appreciated most about Fur is that it claims in its subtitle to be an “imaginary portrait of Diane Arbus.” Shainberg himself said before the film that the story was teased out of the essence of Arbus rather than actual events and people. That’s the way to do a biopic, I say. A slavish commitment to history and the subject’s personality results in formula, not invention. Fur is, thankfully, a complete and engaging invention. It’s in limited release Nov. 10.