Considering Pollock's drinking, womanizing, and marital battles, it is astounding that he produced the paintings that changed the course of modern art.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

As the director of Pollock, Ed Harris focuses his movie with steely concentration on the post-war decade when both New York and Jackson Pollock were attaining prominence in the art world. As the lead actor, Harris immerses himself so thoroughly in the artist that his portrayal rings with authenticity.

By the early forties, Pollock (Ed Harris) has become a revolutionary and controversial painter, the first American art star. It is in this hot spotlight that Pollock and his new wife, the artist Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden), live their stormy marriage. When they retreat to the isolation of a Long Island farmhouse seeking privacy, they find that privacy is one strain their marriage can't bear. Considering Pollock's drinking, womanizing, and marital battles, it is astounding that he produced the paintings that changed the course of modern art.

Fully aware of Pollock's tortured alcoholism as well as his brilliance, Krasner becomes determined to market him, protect him, and force the world to recognize him. Playing all the angles, she finally lures Peggy Guggenheim to her husband's studio. Guggenheim, the odd collector with a superb eye for the future, understands immediately what she sees. Pollock, sure of his talent, wants fame. But this man, who is gentle with animals and children, can smash a room, or his own life, to bits in an alcoholic rage.

In a steaming scene, Krasner lets us know there is no room in her life for the children Pollock wants or for her own painting. Making life work for Jackson Pollock is a full-time job. Only after his death did she come into her own as an artist, painting for 28 years. Marcia Gay Harden gives an inspired performance as the wife who puts herself aside, never considering anything less than shepherding her husband through his torment to his deserved success. Without Lee Krasner, there would have been no Jackson Pollock.

Watching Ed Harris's Pollock experiment his way to the glorious bursts of his best paintings is breathtaking. When he starts to drink again after two years of sobriety, the paintings settle and lose their edge. The critic Clement Greenberg (Jeffrey Tambor) has promised to tell Pollock when this happens, and he does so now. Before our eyes, Ed Harris turns Pollock into a smoldering wreck of a man, an artist heading straight for destruction even as he churns out variations of the work that is destined not only to succeed, but to endure. The paintings are shown beautifully in a slow and masterful succession that is a history of Pollock's development as an artist.

As Pollock explores newly thinned paint with sticks and brushes, he relishes the triumph of his discovery. By this time, the audience is absolutely silent as it waits helplessly for the early death that will deny the world the talent of this tortured and gifted painter. That kind of involvement is Ed Harris's achievement.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 490
Studio : Sony Pictures Classics
Rating : R
Running time : 2h15m

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