At the end of the 1940's, abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) is featured in Life magazine. Flashback to 1941, he's living with his brother in a tiny apartment in New York City, drinking too much, and exhibiting an occasional painting in group shows. That's when he meets artist Lee Krasner, who puts her career on hold to be his companion, lover, champion, wife, and, in essence, caretaker. To get him away from booze, insecurity, and the stress of city life, they move to the Hamptons where nature and sobriety help Pollock achieve a breakthrough in style: a critic praises, then Life magazine calls. But so do old demons: the end is nasty, brutish, and short.Written by
Get with the Beat
Written by Billy Nix and Harry Glenn
Performed by Billy Nix
Courtesy of Rykodisc See more »
As vivid and real as Hollywood is likely to make about the painter
There's no question this is a well made film, and based pretty much on truth, and an interesting truth--the life of a great Abstract Expressionist. Some would say the greatest of them all.
For myself, this isn't enough, and I know this is me. I'm an art critic and professor of Art in my real life, and I'm never very patient with movies about artists. The reason isn't that there are inaccuracies, but that there is a subtle or not-subtle goal of aggrandizing the subject. This reaches a beautiful but, again, romanticized, peak when Pollock makes his famous break into true gestural, raw work in a large commissioned piece for Peggy Guggenheim (who is portrayed, oddly, as a shy and dull sort, which I've never pictured). Then later he makes his drip works. And then he dies, again over dramatized and made aesthetic, as tragic and ugly as it had to have been in life.
If you want to really get into Pollock's head, especially if you aren't already a fan (I love Pollock's work), this is a convincing movie. At the helm as both director and playing the artist is Ed Harris. He is especially believable as a painter, which is something of an important point. This isn't like those movies about musicians where the actor is clearly not playing. Harris actually paints the darned thing, the big masterpiece, on the cusp of the drip works. I don't know if Harris was drinking, too, but he's a good drunk, and of course Pollock was a better drinker than a painter, even.
It's a cheap shot to say a movie could have been shorter, but this one sure would have propelled better with less atmosphere, less filler that is meant to create his life but is interesting only as an illustration of historical facts. It wore me thin for those reasons. Again, it might be a matter of how much you can get sucked into the given drama that is Jackson Pollock's life. It was quite a life, crude, untempered, brave, and immensely connected to what matters as an artist.
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