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4.4 out of 5 stars
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Ed Harris's portrayal of the maverick American abstract expressionist painter
depicts Pollock's contemporaries and the mood of the time marvellously well.
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on 9 July 2004
When Ed Harris put down a, assumedly large package in the 80's that his father had sent him for his birthday, containing possibly the definitive biography of American 'painter' Jackson Pollock, I wonder if Harris would have know that around 15 years later he would have performed and directed his most startling and stunning performances.

Put quite quickly in case you feel the feel the need to buy this right now, Pollock is quite one of the finest biographical films ever to see the light of day. The contrasts of Pollock's often shimmering art work and his dark personality and mental problems make Harris' own work his masterpiece that will take something very special to surpass it, not just through the stunning acting that he portrays, but the presence and the emotion his character throws right out of the screen. Seemingly Ed Harris was made for this role, being a long-term fan since he first received that book from his father about a man he knew nothing about. He even looks like Pollock himself. Not just that, but for the actual painting scenes Harris carefully studied Pollock's almost dancing movement as he spread the paint across the canvas. Basically, this is all-Harris, but as someone else.

The painting moments are stupendous and utterly breath taking. Through Harris you see how Pollock seemed to slip into his own unconscious world as he moved, cross-legged across the piece, splatting and dripping along the way. But it's the emotional moments that are really what makes the film the chilling, thought-provoking masterwork that it is. The most shockingly shimmering moment being when Jackson's brother tells him that he and his pregnant wife are moving away to Connecticut for a job, Pollock turns up the radio and starts hitting his knife and fork on the kitchen table not just mimicking the drumming of the song he heard but pushing out the things he didn't want to hear. Soon after he is found sitting up, taking in a distressed manner to his brother, bursting into tears unable to control the emotions that trouble him most. It's harrowing to say the least.
Right from the beginning you know this is going to be a film of too halves; of course to portray the often-criticised Pollock as the genius he was, but on a level par with that his emotional issues, his depression, his pain and his own self-doubt that went with him all the way to the very top. All of these seep right through the screen. The scenes when Pollock had been heavily drinking were the most intriguing of all, particularly a scene where he asks an art critic staying at his home why a certain painting 'missed'. He's then told that there's too much colour and too much going, therefore pressing Pollock into fetching the huge painting to remould it. However, as the critic says, he 'doesn't care about hurting the feelings of the people who he loves most, but he cannot destroy his art', as he fails to put new paint onto a painting that in his eyes didn't miss, and that was all that mattered.
Pollock's work took some considerable time to actually sell, and only really took of when he accidentally discovered the 'drip and splat' technique he made his own, and which made his the most important artist of the 20th Century, and what strikes you most about 'Pollock', is the sheer strife that the man goes through, just to get to the top, but when he gets there, discovers that there's nothing there for him. His constant gripes at the press for calling him such things as 'poor Picasso', even alienated his family.

Marcia Gay Harden also puts on a stunning performance as his wife, Lee Krasner, an artist herself who quit painting to promote her husbands works. She is a constant rock for Pollock, and as the film shows quite clearly, it never seemed like a completely loving marriage. She would rather give him a pat on the back rather than a loving hug or kiss. Throughout the film you see her slowly unwind as Pollock begins to drink heavily and spiral further into depression, you see her make friends leave who are coming to drink with Pollock again, and her eventual loss when his drinking begins once more. Harden is possibly one of the most under-rated actresses in the world today, scenes such as her arguments with Pollock, years after his initial success when he no longer cared about anything other than himself, his pain and his new girlfriend (well played by Jennifer Connelly, who seems to make a habit of playing the woman in the life of mentally disturbed men, having played Russell Crowe's wife in 'A Beautiful Mind').
But the idea with Pollock is that every scene is intense, even if it's only quietly. The film is at it's most stunning at it's simplest and it's most complicated a lot like Pollock's works themselves. Moody, shadowy, low-key moments such as Pollock and Krasner's first kiss are as equally stunning as scenes such as Jackson tipping over a dinner-table violently. Harden is as an essential part as Pollock's long-suffering spouse as Harris as Pollock himself.
There are few moments that combine Pollock's poor mental state, with his work, possibly because of Harris's wish to let you marvel at his work and hurt for Pollock in his darker moments, but one of the few scenes that does, just about makes the film. The scene where Pollock is asked to paint a large murial (8 feet x 20 feet) for the entrance hall to the art-house of art-critic Peggy Gugenheim (spelling?). Pollock sits and stares at the large canvas for months. He just sits in the room and stares at it for months waiting for the right moment and the right mood. Then suddenly he stands up and begins thrashing away at the canvas as only Pollock did. He was later found by his wife sat on the toilet with his head down, when he'd finished. She rushes in to view the painting that has taken months to conceive and a mere few hours to paint, and is utterly gob smacked. The results are amazing, both visually and theatrically.

Pollock can be moody, it can be artful, and it can be dark and darkly humoured, but I don't believe that it has put-across fully the greatest painter of the 20th Century. But Ed Harris has done an utterly astounding job of making an emotionally powered moving film, that doesn't fail to effect you, the closing score of Tom Waits's 'The World Keeps Turning' a particularly touching moment, especially after the final scene of a drunken and highly depressed Pollock's car flying off the road taking his the life of one of his passengers and his own.
Ed Harris is seemingly one of the most under-rated actors I've ever had the pleasure to watch work. For some reason he always seems to get the second parts, such as his roles in Enemy At The Gates, behind the overrated Jude Law, and his role as the insane megalomaniac in the Sean Connery starred, The Rock. None of his roles ever really give him the chance to truly shine. However Pollock does and under his own direction, him, Harden and the rest of the cast put on performances that are quite simply career defining. Pollock extends itself much further than art fans, which is unfortunately what holds its success back, the fact that many will believe that it's a highly cultural film, and to an extent it is, but in that respect it is a triumph, as it is also a triumph on a similar scale as an emotionally powered, touching spectacle. Quite simply the best film of the 00's so far, is 'Pollock', a labour of love from Harris, which is a moving picture of a man struggling to succeed and be seen in the media, around the world, and most of all, in his own mind.
5 Stars.
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on 7 February 2007
Interesting arty biography of Jackson Pollock, the highly influential abstract painter who introduced the concept of "action painting".

Pollock the film effectively shows the development of the artist including his moment of greatest inspiration when he mistakenly drips paint onto his canvas and realises that it is still art. Much less salubriously it also shows us Pollock the man, a selfish and insensitive alcoholic.

Pollock includes very fine performances by the consistently good Ed Harris in the lead role and Marcia Gay Harden as Lee Krasner, Pollock's long-suffering partner who puts her own promising art career on hold to help his mercurial talents develop and be realised. Harris was nominated for an Oscar for his performance and Harden went one better and deservedly won an Academy Award.

Pollock is also directed by Harris who should be congratulated for portraying such an honest and unsentimental account of this most difficult of artists. It is an informative and thought provoking film, albeit one which is quite horrible and ugly at times, and is well worth seeing.
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I was lucky enough a couple of years ago to visit an exhibition in London displaying Pollock's work right from his early days, the mural painted for Peggy Guggenheim (which we see in this film) through to his later and perhaps more famous action paintings. Since then I have loved his work but never really known that much about him as an artist. Thus I was pleased to come across this DVD on Amazon.

The film started off fairly slowly showing Pollock (Ed Harris) in his younger days living in a tiny, basic apartment in New York. However, it didn't take long for the film to pick up pace and draw you into the world of Jackson Pollack from the period of 1941 onwards. During this time in his life he met his future wife, Lee Krasner (played by Marcia Gay Harden). She truly was his rock and without her it is unlikely that we would be left today with his wonderful legacy of art.

Throughout the film Harris captures the very essence of a creative and tortured mind whose only way of expressing himself and coping with his mental demons was through his art and liquor. We see Pollock live through the extreme highs and terrible lows brought on by his manic depression. Harris portrays these very different emotional states with utter believability.

Ed Harris is outstanding in his role as Pollock - I would go so far as to say this is the role that was meant for him and I can't imagine many other actors being able to bring Pollock so brilliantly to life. He well deserved his Oscar nomination for Best Actor - what a shame he didn't win. Harden also puts in a stellar performance which saw her being awarded an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

I can't recommend this film highly enough for anyone who enjoys biographical films or who just wants to know a little more about Jackson Pollock. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.
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I've just finished watching this through the second time around, and have enjoyed it just as much the first. Loving attention to detail and fine performances all round characterise this moving biography of the tortured American painter, Jackson Pollock. Ed Harris, who stars as well as produced and dircted, gives possibly his lifetime performance as the broodingly taciturn artist, alternately afflicted by bouts of crippling alcoholoism and periods of elemental creativity. Marcia Gay Harden gives an equally oustanding performance as his heroically long suffering wife, who sidelined her own career as a talented painter in her own right, to devote herself to the Sisyphean task of keeping her volatile husband on the wagon and in production.

The works feature large in the film, as does the process by which Pollock creates them, which makes it an altogether more earnest artistic biography than is typical of other Hollywood attempts at the genre. The attention to the details of daily life in 40's and 50's America adds to the film's almost tactile impact. Sets, lighting and cinematography are of an order suitable to the subject matter, sometimes to rival in beauty the canvasses that are their theme. Some of the shots of the New York sidewalk and studio interiors are rivetingly beautiful.

A crucial feature of the film for me is the original music composed by Jeff Beal, who's work has since gone on to become ubiquitous. This score has a unique dynamic and rhythmic quality that perfectly complements the energy of Pollock's paintings. This is particularly effective in the sequences where Pollock is seen at work, creating some of his more epic canvasses. There is a special moment in which he is brooding over a canvas, when suddenly he notices how his brush has dripped onto the floor. This is the point where lightning strikes and Pollock's famous version of abstract expressionism is born. The musical accompaniment to this process is so perfectly appropriate as to raise goose pimples. It could be argued that this handling is somewhat corny, but something like this must have actually happened, for the man to find his mature landmark style.

If I have any complaint, and it is a minor one, it is that the dialogue in matters of art can seem a little crass in th early part of the film. However, this is made up for, insofar as it matters, being by a very long way a primarily visual film, later in the film, where we hear some of Pollock's own efforts to articulate his thoughts on art, which are more cogent, if characteristically incoherent.

This is a superb and beautifully crafted and acted film about the dramatic and troubled life of a true American genius.
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on 2 September 2005
How did this film not do any better on Oscar Night? It's exactly the kind of film that normally would get all the praise(biopic, troubled lives, brilliant acting), yet only received a Best Actress Oscar for Marcia Gay Harden(well deserved), and a nomination for Ed Harris(the people judging Best Actor should be caught and shot for not awarding him the Oscar). This film has long been out of the people's eyes, while bags of crap like The Fantastic Four make millions! Anyone who reads this should just go and buy it without reading the reviews and make their minds up for themselves, but personally, I think it was one of the best films I've seen in a while, with stunning performances, artistic photography and that excellent downbeat ending. Don't miss.
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on 6 June 2003
This is so obviously a labour of love by Ed Harris portraying the artistic process at work in this inovative artist. That's even before listening to the illuminating director's commentary.
It's beautifully shot which makes the darker sides of Pollock's character even more poignant. The score adds feeling to the piece while not being afraid to have almost a whole scene with no music when he first encouraged into his lover's bedroom. Topped off by The World Keeps Turning by Tom Waits which you realise as soon as you hear it was the only song to end the film with.
The 18 certificate can only be a reflection of some of the language.
I started watching it again as soon as it had finished. Careful, if you appreciate art in the slightest, you'll be hooked.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 28 August 2011

I seem to remember reading somewhere that Ed Harris had waited years for this project, developing ideas, gathering a team and garnering the financial backing. It was worth the wait.
He obviously enjoyed himself in this role and created a believable character. As the blank page is to the writer, blank manuscript is to the musician, so blank canvas is to the artist. Filling it with something new is the artistic challenge to which some can rise, some fall but many seem to hover between in a semi-state of madness, eccentricity and/or lethargy.
For many, the world of abstract art is a journey into the unknown from which they may never emerge. Pollock had the vision, courage and talent to create something entirely new which looks easy to copy - "Anyone can do that!" - but, in fact, it is not easy and only he did it. Harris captures all of this very effectively.
A very enjoyable film, recommended to anyone interested in art.

PS A mathematical theory proposed for the aesthetics of Pollock's work is that his "dripped paintings" are fractals, found everywhere in nature in various forms, "rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole," a property called self-similarity. Roots of the idea of fractals go back to the 17th century and beyond. Look at a Pollock, look closer, then closer still ...
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on 21 May 2010
This film is a really absorbing study of an artist who consistently betrays himself thoughout his life, succumbing to baser urges, particularly alcohol.

Pollock's alcoholism and lengthy periods of sobriety are here shown as the catalyst for furious bouts of creativity.

The film really comes alive when we see Pollock actually painting, the canvas's earlier vertical and then later horizontal, presumably to ensure the paint stays exactly where Pollock places it.

What I really liked as well is how the film examines the creative impulse. So we see Ed Harris working out in the outhouse in the garden in the cold. Whilst this is clearly to avoid the unwanted intrusions and nagging of a caring wife , there are other reasons. The cold and sober isolation allows Pollock the inner tranquility to focus on the canvas. So he is temporarily saved by focusing on hard work. It is the resentment of his family later in the film at his success that drives him to finally succumb to alcohol again.

The ending was a little dissapointing as this is not quite so. Pollock succumbs to the ample charms of a beautiful young woman and has a car crash which kills him. I don't think it was as simple as that, but then life is continuously unravelling and goes on whereas a film is a linear narrative that must be concluded. This film examines the relationship of alcoholism and the creative moment, demostrating how the two interwine to cause this artist to self destruct.

The other thing I would state for those who want to investigate Jackson Pollock's art further is that it needs to be seen in situ, the key factor being scale. So in that sense his art becomes a statement about the U.S.A. itself, given North Americas demonstrated penchant for the larger scale. In the case of Jackson Pollock's Art bigger really is better.
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on 21 March 2008
Amongst all the lowbrow nonsense, a film that rekindles your faith in US film. Obviously it should have had greater success, but it is growing, and will last longer than many overnight successes. Perfect in casting, script, music, the lot!
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