Fur puts twist on Diane Arbus#039;s unique life

by Beacon Staff • November 8, 2006

He portrays it not as a troubling taboo one must sweep under the rug, but as an open door into an exhilarating realm of self-discovery and growth. Perversion is a form of transcendence in Secretary as well as his latest movie, Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus, and in both films, we're only too happy to go along for the ride.,Steven Shainberg, director of Secretary, has an ability to celebrate perversity as something extraordinary.

He portrays it not as a troubling taboo one must sweep under the rug, but as an open door into an exhilarating realm of self-discovery and growth. Perversion is a form of transcendence in Secretary as well as his latest movie, Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus, and in both films, we're only too happy to go along for the ride.

Shainberg has a similar artistic style to that of Diane Arbus, a woman who devoted her career to photographing the sickly and disfigured. And since this is a biography about her life, Shainberg paints an elegant portrait that Arbus would have undoubtedly approved of.

It's strange and offbeat to be sure, but it is never uncouth. Though it deals with ugliness and repulsion, Fur's best moments glisten with a soft-spoken splendor.

Before the opening credits begin, the movie introduces a rather odd statement. "This is a film about Diane Arbus," it says, "but it is not a historical biography. What you are about to see is a tribute to Diane: a film that invents characters and situations that reach beyond reality to express what might have been Arbus's inner experience on her extraordinary path."

It's a forced introduction, and some could argue that it is not the filmmaker's job to spell out the movie's objectives for the viewer, but in an age in which conventional bio-pics flood the cinemas every Oscar season, why not boast about creating something new and inventive? Shainberg and screenwriter Erin Wilson should be applauded for whimsically transforming an often generic genre.

When interviewed by The Beacon, Shainberg said his biographical films "deal with too much time. The result is that you can't do anything deeply. By focusing the film on a specific time period in Arbus's life, her journey acquires a lot of energy and focus."

Fur focuses on only six months of Arbus's life and takes complete liberty with characters and scenarios, making much of the story indistinguishable between reality and fairy tale. Even so, it manages to be a telling fable that ultimately succeeds in analyzing Arbus's psychological shift from restless housewife, to innovative photographer.

It is also a film of surprising emotional resonance in which the idea of inner beauty is successfully portrayed without feeling tawdry or clich