Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (directed by Steven Shainberg): Certain movies while not deserving the monetary investment in a theater viewing are worth catching on DVD, and Steven Shainberg's fictional portrait of artist Diane Arbus is one of them. Arbus's life story--upper middle class '60s housewife takes up photography and an interest in subcultures--is such a fascinating one, it practically demands a biopic. Add to that the importance of Arbus's work on the development of photography as well as the continuing resonance of her pictures today, and surely you'd have a guaranteed hit on your hands. While Shainberg's product does not end up being as compelling as its source, his lush amplification of Arbus's freakatude is interesting, especially for fans of his early the-kinky-are-people-too movie, Secretary. Nicole Kidman plays Arbus, a buttoned-up New York wife who assists her photographer husband in the studio but feels she's failing everywhere else, from caring for her children to impressing her snooty parents. She longs to (literally) undo the tiny pearl buttons on her Peter Pan collars and finally gets the chance to break free when she takes up the camera herself and befriends her upstairs neighbor, the very hairy yet flirty Lionel (Robert Downey Jr.). Some of the most beautiful moments in Shainberg's movie are when Lionel takes the wide-eyed Diane around his version of New York City, a bizarre magical place filled with misshapen but wise creatures and where even having a burger in a diner is an adventure. Don't get too bogged down in whether these sequences, or the historical allusions, make a whole lot of sense. They don't. Instead Shainberg wants to transport you into his vision of Arbus's world view, and in Fur he succeeds.
A few other DVDs arriving this week on a video store shelf near you include Edward Norton and Naomi Watt's well-made period adaptation The Painted Veil, the sappy sing-a-long with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore Music and Lyrics, even more undercover gangster Johnny Depp in Donnie Brasco: Extended Cut and the platinum anniversary of not putting Baby in the corner, Dirty Dancing: Twentieth Anniversary.