Film Review: Pollock

*NOTE: Below the review is a link to an interesting Jackson Pollock-inspired site.

The other night I watched the film Pollock, directed by and starring Ed Harris.

Pollock tells the story of innovative/groundbreaking/troubled artist Jackson Pollock from his first encounters with wife Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden, who won the 2000 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal) and Peggy Guggenheim (played by Harris’ wife, Amy Madigan) in 1941 to his death in 1956.

As Ed Harris says in the special features on the DVD, it’s as though Pollock was a child trapped in an adult’s body with the impulse control and social graces of a child, ill-prepared for a grown-up existence. An apt description for a man who lashes out, drinks excessively, and lives in a fantasy world most of the time.

When he first meets his future wife, a talented artist in her own right, she is blown away by Pollock’s yet to be discovered genius. She puts her own career on hold to support and manage her husband and, in effect, become his caretaker.

Jackson and Lee escape the fast-paced life of New York City for the more relaxed environs of Long Island. Here, with a new studio and his drinking under control, Pollock is free to explore his art and allow his unique vision to take flight.

Soon, as his fame begins to level off, Jackson slips back into the old destructive habits he had once given up, leading him down a slippery slope that ends in tragedy.

Pollock is a tremendous film that didn’t get the credit it was due. As biopics go, it is certainly one of my favorites. While not paced like some of the more recent films of this genre (Ray or Walk the Line) and Jackson Pollock certainly isn’t as much a part of American culture – at least not as these others were/are – this film does take us into the life of such a gifted and influential figure and tells a compelling story. (Why is it that most genius is coupled with some sort of social, psychological, or physical disorder?)

There are a series of small supporting roles to round out the cast (Tom Bower, Jennifer Connelly, John Heard, Val Kilmer, and Jeffrey Tambor) but one of the things that interests me the most is that Ed Harris does all of his own painting. Like Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, and Jamie Foxx performing in their respective roles, Harris learned how Pollock worked and was able to get into his creative process in order to recreate (at least in part) many of the styles in Pollock’s portfolio. Sure, they only show him working on it and then cut to a version that was completed by staff artists who copied the pieces exactly, but it’s still quite impressive.

Whether you are interested in art or not, Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden give stellar performances in this film and I highly recommend it.

*****
I was looking around for desktop wallpaper of some of Pollock’s paintings and came across this site that allows you to paint in a browser window in the style of Jackson Pollock.

It’s just a bit of fun!

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