Saturday, September 30, 2006

Nicole Kidman And Lots Of Naked People

Nicole Kidman’s new movie "Fur" is going to be remembered for many things, but one in particular: lots of nude people. I mean, like naked men and women, full frontal, the whole deal.

"Fur," directed by Steve Shainberg, is an imagined story about the life of legendary photographer Diane (pronounced “de-ahn”) Arbus.

Arbus’ revered work includes nude portraits of regular people, as well as many hundreds of irregular types: short people, tall people and even a woman who used her feet for hands.

Diane Arbus used her innate sexuality. After the dissolution of her marriage, Arbus embarked on a wild and erotic quest to somehow rejoin herself to a humanity she felt increasingly alienated from. Apparently she photographed sex orgies, bondage scenes and became increasingly interested in sexual/erotic subjects. She also engaged in a number of intimate, but ultimately unrewarding, sexual affairs. In her biography of Arbus, Patricia Bosworth writes:

[Arbus] was always frightened, but that meant conquering her fear each time...Because the only way to understand something was to confront it, she said, and when you had sex, restraints were broken, inhibitions disappeared. Sex was the quickest, most primitive way to begin connecting with another human being.

The film, which is simultaneously genius and bizarre, features the greatest selection of “freakish” characters since Woody Allen’s “Stardust Memories.” Whoever did the secondary casting deserves a prize.

But what will catch the most attention when “Fur” is released on Nov. 10 are the opening scenes in which Arbus, played brilliantly I thought by Kidman, arrives to take pictures at a nudist colony. Right away, we are treated to what the British call “naughty bits,” and plenty of them. Shainberg does not shy away from it at all. But believe me, there’s nothing erotic here. These are not models from a Madonna video.

Later in the film, Kidman and Robert Downey Jr. -- who plays a kind of imagined hairy beast who lives above the Arbuses in their apartment house -- have a sex scene slightly more graphic that we’re used to in a Kidman film.

And later, when the nudist colony scene picks up, Kidman flashes one breast just long enough to be surprising (and not unwelcome). And, of course, there’s more of the colonists.

It’s a little early to tell you more about “Fur,” except to explain the title. Arbus’ parents were very wealthy New York furriers, and there is a tie-in thematically between the chinchillas and minks they sell and Downey’s hirsute recluse with whom Kidman’s Arbus falls in love. It makes sense, just wait and see.

This much I will tell you also now: “Fur” puts Nicole into the very hotly contested Best Actress race with Judi Dench, Kate Winslet, Renee Zellweger, Penelope Cruz, Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren. “Fur” will also garner attention for spectacular cinematography by Bill Pope (he did the “Matrix” movies) and an unbelievably good jazz score by Carter Burwell.

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