A review by Mike Shea Movie Rating: ( * * * · · ) DVD Rating: ( * * * * · )
I read in an interview recently that in order to create powerful characters in fiction they must have weakness to balance that power. If truly ingenious panting was Jackson Pollock's power, his lack of mental stability was his weakness. John Woo's Pollock, but I was still highly entertained.
In the initial frame of the movie and later after living with this excentric painter for an hour, we are shown a closeup of Pollock as he autographs his spread in Life magazine. At first we are aware of the vacant stare he has, as if living in another plane of existence, but later we see his focus on Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock's wife, and see the look of infinite loss. Depth of character is a true strength of this otherwise dry subject matter. We can see and feel the emotionally starving artist even if we cannot understand him. Later on in the film, when Jackson Pollock is doing a radio interview about his painting, we can almost feel his complete detest and scorn for his own audience. During Thanksgiving dinner he places his documentary filmmaker next to him so he can whisper "I'm not a phony, you're a phony" over and over into his ear.
Set design was another great strength. Detail was paramount and this is apparent from the initial views of the apartment Pollock shares with his brother and his wife. Everything from the rust stains on the sink to the old fashioned coffee pot feels authentic. Nothing is glossed over and nothing feels like it was designed for the movie, it is all real. Even the cigarette, constantly perched out of the corner of Pollock's mouth as he enter his world of paint, adds quite a lot to the feel of the movie.
The DVD of Pollock does a fine job representing the film. It has a much desired 1.85 to 1 16x9 enhanced picture and a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Neither the picture or the sound called attention to itself, it simply acted as a clear transport of the original story. Ed Harris has a commentary track on the DVD as well.
There is no doubt that Pollock is a movie for snobs. It was only blind luck, not any kind of cultural elitism that I even knew who Jackson Pollock was in the first place and until seeing the movie I couldn't have told you what kind of work he did. Only a C grade in Art 101 teaches me the difference between abstract vacant and post impressionist (I'll give you a hint, think Vangough first and Serat second). While I detest it, the Mummy is probably a movie more my speed, but I'd like to think that I liked Pollock and indeed it was able to keep me up from midnight to two thirty on a Saturday night. If you don't mind a biographical film about an alcoholic artist, give it a shot.