Friday, September 01, 2006

Telluride '06: Fur

Telluride, Colo. -- 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.

Other Telluride buzz: Tiffani (Amber-)Thiessen was in the audience for Fur. We think she's in town to look for acting jobs. Also, my friend Christi saw Babel last night and said it was no good. The horror film Severance is the talk of the town. Apparently, it's fantastic. Upcoming: Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland, one of the more intense films I've seen. Also: a quick Telluride primer, for the uninitiated.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good to hear Fur was made well and good. I hope NK's performance since it is "appropriately subdued and reactionary" would blow people away as it did in Birth, lol for her to land an Oscar nomination this time (after missing out on Dogville and Birth). Good on Shainberg for shaking biopics up for us and I hope he and his cast are given much credit for it. And good for NK for going back to the risky/gutsy roles, she's been missed in them!

Emma said...

Actually, I thought the trailer made the movie look kind of... generic.

is that so wrong? said...

I'm living vicariously through you, or at least the narrative in your blog. I totally imagined sitting in the darkened gondola too. Keep the updates and take a picture or two.... and say hi to Christi for me, in hopes you guys go grab some tuna noodle hot dish or something.

Anonymous said...

I hope Kidman's performance knocks enough people off and get some recognition. Unless she is doing some generic movie, AMPAS seems confused about her work. I've read about 4 raves on Fur now.

How come your friend doesn't like Babel, it seems everyone is raving about it? lol

Smith said...

Reading this, Kidman's performance sounds EXACTLY like her performance in Birth. That performance was very quiet and was all about reactions. I consider her to be brilliant in it, the film less so. And I haven't seen one bad review of Fur yet, so maybe with a performance on par with her's in Birth with a better film will finally get her that elusive 3rd nomination she deserved 2 years ago.

Hope Downey Jr. can make it in as well. I love him and I hear he steals the film.

J.J. said...

Suffice to say that Downey is probably the only actor who can pull off this hirsute stunt. He acts almost the entire film behind a thicket of face and body hair. And it never once seems ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Having seen both Fur and Babel, I must say I'm in agreement with JJ Gittes's friend about Babel. It's not TRULY awful, but it's painted with broad, kindergarten-like brush strokes, as if the entire creative team were terrified the audience wouldn't "get" the film's rather bland and pedestrian metaphors. As for Fur, I will agree with the performance comments previously posted but I will say that Kidman's performance here is NOTHING like her performance in Birth. Birth had a complex, nuanced script. Fur does not. 'Enuff said about that.

For me, Babel and Fur were flip sides of the same position-paper coin: the former blatant, schlocky and "deeply felt," the latter willfully Arty, schlocky and uber-cool. Fur is NOT a reinvention of the biopic genre. Would that it were. Both films assume a lack of audience intellectual chops.

J.J. said...

Good comments all around. Also, another point: My friend described "Babel" as an international "Crash."

Emma said...

Oh, no! I was looking forward to Babel.