Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus

On November 17th the new Steven Shainberg film Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus will be released. Shainberg directed Secretary, a demented film from 2002 about the S&M relationship between a young, mentally disturbed woman played by Maggie Gyllenhall, and her boss, played by James Spader.I don’t like to read reviews before I see a film, but based on the trailer for Fur, it looks pretty out there. Arbus is played by Nicole Kidman, who I really didn’t pay much attention to until seeing her in Lars von Trier’s film Dogville. Lionel Sweeney is played by Robert Downey Jr. — another actor who wasn’t really on my radar until he stole the show in Richard Linklater’s animated adaptation of Phillip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly this year.

In 2003, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art had an amazing exhibition on Diane Arbus. Three years later there are a few things from the show that still stick in my mind. The contact sheet for Child with Toy Hand Grenade is a very interesting window into her photographic process. In her journals, Diane laments that the quality of her students’ work has a negative effect on her own photography. And finally, the square format twin lens reflex (TLR) camera proved to be the right equipment choice for Diane.

There is a lot of information on Arbus online. Have a look at the Smithsonian article A Fresh Look at Diane Arbus, and the book Diane Arbus Revelations.