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Overall Rating

Awesome: 28.57%
Worth A Look52.38%
Average: 19.05%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

6 reviews, 27 user ratings

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by iF Magazine

"An excellent film, especially for a debut!"
5 stars

It is extremely difficult to make the solitary creative process appear dramatic onscreen. Visual artists like painters and sculptors have a slight edge over writers, but it's still hard to make the work in progress exciting for audiences to watch.

Ed Harris' film directorial debut is therefore all the more impressive. Harris is not only fiercely on target with the human fireworks displays that periodically erupt from painter Jackson Pollock (Harris), but he stages, photographs and performs the act of painting in ways that make us feel empathetic surges of energy.

Pollock, who died in 1956, is best known for fathering a particular style of abstract art during the 1940s. He suffered from depression so severe that the U.S. Army declined to draft him into WWII and he had bouts of heavy, nasty drinking. POLLOCK shows us these aspects of the man's personality, but Harris and writers Barbara Turner and Susan J. Emshwiller, working from the biography "Pollock: An American Saga" by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, avoid being either maudlin or judgmental. As a director, Harris has such a quiet, straightforward approach that we feel like additional characters in the room. When, for instance, Pollock is at a party and urinates into the flames in the fireplace, it takes us (along with the guests) a moment to register what's happening in front of us because we've been made comfortable and don't anticipate a breach of the social fabric.

POLLOCK the film concerns itself equally with Pollock's rise and fall in the public eye and with his relationship with his wife, fellow artist Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden). The film demonstrates that, for Pollock and Krasner, career and relationship were inextricably bound together. Krasner literally walks into Pollock's life by appearing on his doorstep and asking to see his work. She gives up her own painting to promote Pollock's, marries him and moves to the country, but balks unequivocally at having children. Pollock also has a far-reaching (though entirely non-sexual) symbiotic association with art critic Clement Greenberg (Jeffrey Tambor).

The latter quasi-friendship is one of the most fascinating aspects of POLLOCK. The film goes further than most in examining the intricate, messy connections between those who create and those who are moved by the creation. Fame is a part of the equation, certainly, but it's not the only component or even the greatest. POLLOCK's writers have enough insight to show us a number of telling incidents without ever spelling out in the dialogue what we're observing. We're invited to draw our own conclusions, but we feel the palpable pressure on both sides.

Harris as Pollock gives a performance so fully imagined that it feels like an incarnation - there's no visible sign of technique, just a real person in front of us, now reflective, next playful, then exploding with rage. Harden as the resilient but woundable Krasner is fully in tune with Harris, giving as good as she gets. Tambor as the massively opinionated yet needy Greenberg is admirably nuanced; the actor has a wonderful understanding of the situation but is agile enough to avoid giving his character more self-awareness than he should possess.

POLLOCK has a superb period look - one that couldn't have been easy to achieve on a tight budget - courtesy of production designer Mark Friedberg and Lisa Rinzler is responsible for the beautiful cinematography. Rinzler and Harris both have an eye for evocative images. There's an amazing shot of a shallow stream bed, its rocky bottom visible under the ripples, that is reminiscent of Pollock's paintings. It's very brief and we're allowed to make the link (or not) between the natural sight and invented art on our own. However, for those who care to make the leap, the suggestion about how we process the initial impression provided by our eyes makes us literally see Pollock's work differently thereafter.

In the film, when Pollock is asked about the meaning of his art by a reporter, he tries to curb his exasperation by comparing his abstracts to a bed of flowers. "You don't tear your hair out over what it means." POLLOCK the film has a wealthy of clear-minded, coherent observations about art and people, and manages to put them across in a manner that gives them intellectual and emotional weight.-- Abbie Bernstein

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originally posted: 02/22/01 16:30:14
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User Comments

8/06/06 ibrahimRehman i m writer i wrote a storys i wont to show it 5 stars
3/31/06 Thomas Semesky Hated Pollock's paintings, but liked the movie. 4 stars
2/23/05 andrea313 I love Ed Harris, but this one didn't do it for me. 3 stars
11/17/04 Michelle Execellent Moive!! Great acting. 5 stars
5/15/04 The More You Know adds to his legacy for better or worse, at least now I won't confuse Pollock w/ Browne. 5 stars
5/14/04 zee "NO! DON'T HAVE THAT DRINK!!" But, damn, he does... Ok, now go break some furniture! 3 stars
2/26/04 R.W. Welch Well done biopic. Helps if you're into the art scene. 4 stars
4/20/03 Dillon Sorry Eddie, I love you but this was too one-note for me. Harden terrific, tho 3 stars
4/19/03 Jack Sommersby One of 2000's 10-best films. Harris and Harden are brilliant! 5 stars
4/11/03 Jack Bourbon Ed Harris, Ed Harris, and more Ed Harris (which is good). Good job by Tambor, too. 4 stars
2/21/03 Jim the movie geek great cast, great story, understated, but kept me engrossed the whole time 5 stars
8/14/02 Bryan Brooks Ed Harris is outstanding. 3 stars
6/20/02 Reini Urban Thanksfully not too hollywood-like overly dramatic 5 stars
3/31/02 Film Guy Great Movie , not just for art lovers 5 stars
3/02/02 rue the whirl I thought it was... 5 stars
2/20/02 Xaver Marcia Gay Harden was supreme! See it. 5 stars
11/12/01 phil m. afficiando Awesome for the performances,casting,and directoral passsion. Not perfect, but who is? 5 stars
9/10/01 The Bomb 69 fragmented storyline, all over the place, great acting with poor directing (tough to do) 3 stars
6/05/01 Peter Brook good acting, poor directing, jumpy storyline. Should have been better than actually is. 3 stars
4/11/01 Spetters Harden and Harris make this worthwhile, because the narrative is sloppy sometimes. 4 stars
4/03/01 J.P. Couch Harden does an amazing job. 4 stars
3/29/01 skye great cast. fascinating subject. good movie 4 stars
3/24/01 Soggy Bottom Boy One of year's best, KICK@SS soundtrack. Top-notch acting, really loved this flic. 5 stars
3/05/01 Artist Freak Worth it just to see Ed Harris in the painting scenes, has other good points too. 4 stars
3/01/01 Roger the Shrubber Good acting + ok direction = worth a look 4 stars
2/28/01 Heather Great acting/directing from Ed & Marcia, a fly on the wall look at a destructive artist 5 stars
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