Provocative pic to open fest

As Rome opens this week, there’s a big question hanging over the fest: Will “Fur” fly?

The fest is placing a big bet on the Diane Arbus-themed pic, which stars Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey Jr.

Organizers chose the Picturehouse release as the opening night film despite — or because of — its provocative structure. Eschewing the rise-and-fall chronology of the conventional biopic, the movie is instead using Arbus’ work as an entry into understanding her vision.

Even before festgoers have seen a frame, the movie has unintentionally been caught in the crossfire between Rome and Venice film fest organizers. Venice toppers claimed that Rome’s announcement of the film as its opener violated an agreement between the two fests not to make announcements close to each other’s events.

But signs are strong that the pic will receive a warm welcome in any case. Director Steven Shainberg (“Secretary”) is expected to bring a trademark edginess that will appeal to the arthouse crowd. Kidman, meanwhile, is likely to be a reassuring star presence even to those auds more accustomed to traditional fare.

And then there’s the appeal of Downey covered in fur.

Also, Picturehouse’s topper, marketing and distribution genius Bob Berney, is renowned for his ability to capture auds others have frequently overlooked.

Distrib says the timing of its Italian theatrical release — not to mention the global appeal of the photographer — make it a solid fest bet.

“This is a movie that presses the envelope of the imagination,” says Michael Lynne, co-topper of New Line, one half of the Picturehouse venture. “We think it’s going to resonate all over the world.”

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