It was a smart move for Picturehouse’s Bob Berney to unveil Steve Shainberg’s Fur at Telluride. This delicate piece would have been lost at Toronto or Venice. It will have its official premiere in Rome, which was willing to pay the freight of bringing the gang, including Nicole Kidman, over. Venice wasn’t.
I was expecting a weird movie about a woman photographing freaks and instead saw an exquisitely crafted love story. It played well for the Telluride crowd this morning, which tends toward the older art-house side. Instead of making a conventional Diane Arbus biopic, New Yorker Shainberg, who grew up with her photos in his house because his novelist uncle was friends with Arbus, has crafted an imaginative portrait of the period in her life when Arbus, 35, took a dive off the deep end. She stopped assisting her husband in his portrait studio and started taking her own photographs. How did that transformation happen?
Shainberg and his screenwriter-collaborator Erin Cressida Wilson took off from Patricia Bosworth’s biography and threw Arbus (played by Nicole Kidman in tightly cinched 50s dresses) down the rabbit hole and into a wonderland peopled by freaks like Robert Downey, Jr., a man completely covered with hair. (He’s a fictional construct based on a real person who Arbus never met.) It works. It’s no surprise that the team that created the sadomasochistic romance in Secretary would dig into Arbus’s strange universe with zest and glee. But many will want the movie to delve less into this woman’s escape from bourgeois convention and more into exploring her iconic photography. “That would have been boring,” Shainberg insisted at the Q & A this morning. “You already know about that.”