An interpretation of the life of acclaimed American painter Jackson Pollock (Ed Harris), beginning in 1941 when he was a struggling and unknown artist, through his his subsequent rise to fame and encounter - and later marriage to - fellow artist and main supporter/ fan/ aide/ wife/ lover Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden) to his death in a car smash in 1956.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Australia’s major connection with Jackson Pollock is through the controversial Gough Whitlam approved mid-70s acquisition of his giant Blue Poles painting, for a then remarkable A$1 million. All of us then alive and politically aware will find this film revelatory, at the very least. But for anyone who likes to read biographies, biopics are appealing – even if a watered down format. In some respects, anyway. The upside is you have all that visual advantage of the images – and the moving images - so films about artists like Basquiat or Pinero (the latter was not released here theatrically) expand our terms of reference. The self destructive binges, the unpredictability of the artistic temperament and the glowing results of their art make for intense cinema, and Ed Harris tackles this project like a man obsessed. His Oscar-nominated performance is edgy, dynamic and totally involving, while his direction is in full service to his subject. Harris morphs into what seems to be Pollock’s spirit with a completeness that comes from years of absorbing and preparing for the film. There are no judgements made nor sentimental asides about art, but a buttoned down and often journalistic balance about the work which make it astringent. This purist approach slices through the bullshit of what many art glitterati like to promote: the jargon of art, the mystique of artists, the sanctity of creation. None of that here. Warts are warts. So on that level, the film is a brilliant success. It is less successful in penetrating the man enough to enlighten us with understanding; we barely glimpse the forces that forged Pollock, and perhaps that’s asking too much. Marcia Gay Harden’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Lee Krasner is powder-dry and powder-keg powerful. Dedicated and sincere filmmaking like this is not always enormously popular, but it is certainly appreciated.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
More than a straightforward biography charting Jackson Pollock's rise to prominence, Ed Harris' film is a penetrating study of the work ethic as it applied to one of America's great post-war painters. The man whose name has a special place in the minds of Australians who remember the howls of outrage when the Whitlam government paid in excess of $1 million for Blue Poles is superbly played by Harris who spent 15 years bringing his dream project to the screen. His direction is a little flat and ponderous at times but his performance as the artist who created magnificent works in between (and sometimes during) bouts of alcoholic oblivion is as close to faultless as acting gets. Just as impressive is Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden as Pollock's wife Lee Krasner, who not only stood by her man through very rough times but steered him into the right social and critical circles of New York, enabling his career to flourish. Around the dynamic core of Harris and Harden there are excellent contributions from Amy Madigan as art patron Peggy Guggenheim, Jennifer Connolly as Pollock groupie Ruth Klingman and Jeffrey Tambor as sharp-tongued critic Clement Greenberg, whose frank critiques of Pollock's work are a joy to listen to. With a two-hour running time and unblinking focus on the frequently unpleasant labour pains of Pollock's creative process, this biography won't appeal to a wide audience. Those very attributes make it rewarding for those seeking substance and insight rather than glossy melodrama. Pollock is a hard slog at times but worth it.
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CAST: Ed Harris, Robert Knott, Molly Regan, Marcia Gay Harden, Sada Thompson
PRODUCER: Fred Berner, Ed Harris, Jon Kilik, James Francis Trezza
DIRECTOR: Ed Harris
SCRIPT: Barbara Turner, Susan Emshwiller (Steven Naifeh - book Jackson Pollock: An American Saga/ Gregory White Smith - book Jackson Pollock: An American Saga)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lisa Rinzler
EDITOR: Kathryn Himoff
MUSIC: Jeff Beal
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Friedberg
RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 31, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: April 2, 2003
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.