A portrayal of a mental illness living in an artist or an artist living with mental illness; alcohol was the self prescribed medication. Obviously what threw pollack over the edge was the end of his 15 minutes of fame. Sad that an artists worth only appreciates after there is no more production. Typically the ego is so inflated after the galactic interlude, the spiral into normalcy is self destructive. I've seen it happen in people not so famous, but equally talented in their profession.
Debbie Reynolds appears briefly as herself in several shots; her face appears on the cover of the August 8th, 1949 issue of "Life" magazine seen in several scenes. The cover was her first for "Life". For the filming, the real cover of the "Life" issue was used, but the pages of the Jackson Pollock article inside are reproductions of the original, with Ed Harris's image substituted for Pollock's. See more »
When Jackson and Lee first go out to the barn, they discover that it was being used for storage and that, if cleaned out, it might make a suitable studio space. In reality, Jackson and Lee moved the empty barn to improve the view from the upper windows of their house. After moving the barn, Jackson started using it as a studio. This was probably done for the reasons that, since they were shooting on location, and moving the barn would have not only been much more expensive, it would have been illegal as it is a historic landmark. See more »
Jackson Pollock: An illustrated study on how to really paint oneself into a corner
As heavy and darkly textured a film as any one of his masterpieces, director and star Ed Harris takes us into the tortured, inebriated world of abstract painter Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)and leaves us assured that Pollock is a certifiable candidate for the Hall of Fame "self-destructive genius" award, joining the illustrious, besotted ranks of Ernest Hemingway, Hank Williams, John Barrymore, Helen Morgan, et al. True, when has Hollywood ever bothered to put on cinematic display a gifted artist who wasn't a poster child for Betty Ford? We usually reserve well-adjusted geniuses for quieter, more tasteful retrospectives on cable TV.
Harris spares no time in letting us know that Pollock is a crude, mindless, gifted mess veering toward unmitigated disaster, taking everything and everyone down with him as he does. Amazingly, in his brutally brief 44 years, Pollock manages to find, with a man-child brilliance, his life's destiny as a master of artistic expression and interpretation and the accidental inventor of the drip-action technique. Harris painstakingly chronicles the little known details of this wretched genius who somehow learned how to free up his own artistic mind while confine the rest of his world to an absolute hell.
The actor/director wisely manages to avoid most of the pitfalls characteristic of these grand bios of agony and angst. In a stark, no-holds-barred performance, he lays the character out like it is -- unredeeming, hopeless, desperate, supremely gifted, yet intriguing. Its a daunting, fully etched performance that, in lesser hands, could have been one long cliche. He doesn't toy with the audience by thinking had the right circumstances come along for Pollock (and they DID come along with wife and caretaker, Lee Krasner) he could have somehow prevailed. Harris is quite believable, losing himself in the painter while showing off his researched skills with a brush. It's a true labor of love and it shows.
Marcia Gay Harden's self-sacrificing Krasner breathes life not only into Pollock but the film itself. Harden, in a rich, flashy portrayal, is mesmerizing as one artist compelled to save another, giving interesting dimension to a woman whose reasons are not totally pure and selfless. Amy Madigan (Harris' wife in real life) makes the most of her few scenes as the eccentric museum maven Peggy Guggenheim, while Val Kilmer appears in an odd, thankless cameo. Harris and Harden were both deservedly Oscar-nominated for their work here.
Yet, problems do creep into the film. While Harris pours his heart and soul into this show (a ten-year pet project, so they say), Pollock's "before life" is never set up to demonstrate why Pollock became such an inveterate drunk and monster. As such, little sympathy can be mustered, holding viewers at bay. Moreover, a couple of manipulative scenes also seem to be thrown in merely to punctuate the already well-worn theme of Pollock's misery and desolation. Less is more in this case. For the most parts, however, this little film succeeds.
Until now, little attention has been paid to the artist Jackson Pollock. Harris rectifies this injustice, as reprehensible as some of it is, with unsparing honesty, dedication and precision.
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