Fur (film)

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Fur movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteven Shainberg
Produced byLaura Bickford
Patricia Bosworth
Andrew Fierberg
William Pohlad
Bonnie Timmermann
Screenplay byErin Cressida Wilson
Based onDiane Arbus: A Biography by Patricia Bosworth
StarringNicole Kidman
Robert Downey Jr.
Music byCarter Burwell
CinematographyBill Pope
Edited byKristina Boden
Keiko Deguchi
River Road Entertainment
Distributed byPicturehouse
Release date
  • November 10, 2006 (2006-11-10)
Running time
122 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$16.8 million
Box office$2.3 million[1]

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (also known simply as Fur) is a 2006 American romantic drama film directed by Steven Shainberg and written by Erin Cressida Wilson, based on Patricia Bosworth's book Diane Arbus: A Biography. It stars Nicole Kidman as iconic American photographer Diane Arbus, who was known for her strange, disturbing images, and also features Robert Downey Jr. and Ty Burrell. As the title implies, the film is largely fictional.


The movie opens with Diane Arbus arriving to shoot pictures at a nudist colony. The story then flashes back to three months earlier in New York City, 1958. Diane Arbus plays assistant to her photographer husband Allan. Diane is from a wealthy family; her father is a furrier. Allan's family has run a photo studio for decades. Diane is clearly uncomfortable with the tepid life of a city wife and mother (to their two girls). One night during a party, she is gazing out the window and catches the eye of the mysterious neighbor who has just moved in upstairs. His face is completely covered except for the eyes and mouth. That evening after the party, Diane stands on their patio, opens her dress and exposes her bra. She admits this to her husband. A few days later, her daughter informs her of a problem with the plumbing. Opening up a pipe, Diane discovers clumps of hair blocking it. As she removes the hair, a key tumbles down. She takes the hair and key out to the trash, and then buzzes her upstairs neighbor to ask if he's been grooming a dog. He says no, and then suggests she look in the basement, which she does. She sees an ornate chair and a sideshow poster of a "wild man," which an armless woman then dusts off. Diane assumes she's the wife of the neighbor. When she can't sleep, Diane grabs the camera (that her husband had gifted her years before, and she'd as of yet never used), and goes upstairs to introduce herself to her neighbor, and ask if she could shoot his portrait. He asks her if she got the key, and then tells her to return the next night. She leaves, and then goes to grab the key out of the trash.

Thus begins her relationship with Lionel Sweeney, a man with hypertrichosis who is in demand as a wigmaker. Lionel sees in Diane a kindred spirit, and he takes her places where she meets transvestites, dwarves and others living on the fringes of society. Diane tells Allan she'd like to take time off from the business to take her own photographs, starting with the neighbors. He's supportive of her. As Diane spends more with Lionel, she grows more attracted to him and this new, strange and exciting world. She's taking photographs, but hides the undeveloped film in a cookie jar. The key was to Lionel's apartment, so Diane can let herself in at any time.

Lionel asks to be introduced to Diane's husband. Soon Diane has brought Lionel even into her family life. Her children help him with his wig making business, and he reads bedtime stories to them. She introduces him to her mother and father. At her and Allan's anniversary party, Diane finds Lionel breathing in some substance. He admits that his lungs are disintegrating, and within a few months he'll be "drowning." She cries at this news. They almost kiss, but are interrupted by Allan, who sees their intimate moment, and then leaves. Later at home, he asks Diane if she'd kissed him, but then realizes it doesn't matter if they have or if they haven't, that he knows her feelings towards Lionel. He begs her not to tear their family apart. Diane agrees to end the affair, and dresses and goes upstairs to do so. When she lets herself in to Lionel's, she finds him naked with shaving cream and razor in hand. He asks her to completely shave him. When he's naked, they make love. When she asks why he wanted to be shaved (after previously professing it wasn't worth the effort), he reveals he intends to "swim out," to commit suicide in the ocean, and wants her to be with him when he does it. She's devastated but agrees. They profess their love for each other. In the meantime, her daughter, having found her film stash, gives it to Allan to develop. Allan sees his wife's talent for the first time.

At the beach, Lionel presents Diane with a gift: a fur jacket, made from his own hair. She walks with Lionel to the edge of the water, and watches as he gleefully swims out.

She returns to her home, and as she puts the key in the door, realizes she cannot go in, back to her old life. Allan, standing on the other side of the door, does nothing. Diane returns to Lionel's apartment, rolls in his bed, and breathes the air he'd blown into a life raft to inflate it. Suddenly, she's surrounded by all of Lionel's friends, and they have a party to honor him. One of his friends gives her a photo album Lionel wanted her to have. It has fifty empty pages, all with photo plate tags in Lionel's handwriting. He wants her to fill them with her photographs.

Diane, touched by her experience with Lionel, now knows what direction to take with her life and career. The final scene shows her at a nudist camp, where she meets a woman who assumes she wants to take her picture. Arbus admits this, but first asks the woman to tell her a secret. The woman asks Diane to tell her a secret first, and Diane agrees.



For the film, director Shainberg, best known for his erotic indie film Secretary, reunited with its screenwriter, Erin Cressida Wilson, who used Patricia Bosworth's Diane Arbus: A Biography as a source. As its name implies, the film is a fictional account rather than an accurate biography. Mark Romanek had previously tried to direct and write a film based off of Bosworth's biography for DreamWorks Pictures.[2]

No pictures by Arbus herself are featured, as her estate refused approval.[3][4]

The nudist camp of Camp Venus was shot at Sailors' Snug Harbor in Staten Island.


The film holds a 50 score on Metacritic,[5] and holds a 32% from 111 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.[6] The Chicago Tribune gave the film 3 out of 4 stars: "The result is a revelatory, challenging and deeply affecting portrait, anchored by what may be Kidman's most profoundly moving performance."[7] The Los Angeles Times criticized the "cop-out ending that undercuts its message about the unimportance of surface differences in favor of a glib finalities to have its cake and eat it too". Although the newspaper continued to heap praise on Kidman and Downey Jr; "the remarkable acting of its two stars pulls you back in and keeps you watching. Kidman, the most consistently daring of today's top stars, is exceptionally convincing as someone whose interior process plays out in front of us. And Downey, for the most part using only his soulful, yearning eyes and a silky, urbane voice, creates a man no one could resist. Separately and together, they make us believe the unbelievable."[8]


The soundtrack to Fur was released on November 14, 2006.

1."The Fur"Carter Burwell3:11
2."Tango de la Bête"Carter Burwell1:23
3."Scary Times"Carter Burwell1:38
4."Arbus Family Photo Studio"Carter Burwell1:53
5."My Arms Around Myself"Carter Burwell1:54
6."Exposure"Carter Burwell0:57
7."Seduction"Carter Burwell1:09
8."Pipes"Carter Burwell1:36
9."Ad Ultima Thule"Carter Burwell3:30
10."Call of the Wild"Carter Burwell1:06
11."The Tea Party"Carter Burwell2:08
12."Following"Carter Burwell1:58
13."The Run Back Home"Carter Burwell1:16
14."Water Dream"Carter Burwell3:13
15."Stepping Out"Carter Burwell1:04
16."A Dead Person"Carter Burwell1:19
17."Trap Door Party"Carter Burwell1:13
18."Drowning"Carter Burwell1:36
19."End It"Carter Burwell1:22
20."Transmission"Carter Burwell2:28
21."The Shave"Carter Burwell5:22
22."Into The Sea"Carter Burwell5:03
23."I Want to Meet Your Husband"Carter Burwell0:53
Total length:47:12[9]


  1. ^ "Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (2006)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 15, 2018. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Petrikin, Chris; Hindes, Andrew (September 17, 1998). "Romanek eyes 'Paradise'". Variety. Retrieved March 21, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Thomson, David (2008-12-10). Nicole Kidman. ISBN 9780307488794.
  4. ^ Kidd, Chip (2015). Judge This. ISBN 9781476784786.
  5. ^ Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus Metacritic. Retrieved on 17 December 2009
  6. ^ Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on 18 October 2020
  7. ^ Movie review: 'Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus' Chicago Tribune. 16 November 2006
  8. ^ MOVIE REVIEW 'Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus' Los Angeles Times. 10 November 2006
  9. ^ Fur Soundtrack AllMusic. Retrieved February 26, 2014

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