Produced and Directed by Ed Harris.
Running Time: 117 mins
Rated: MA 15+
All hell broke loose when, in 1973, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam gave
permission to the Director of the National Gallery in Canberra, James
Mollison, to buy Jackson Pollock's "Blue Poles". At $1.34 million it was
the highest price any Australian Government had paid for a work of art. At very least, it was a shrewd investment of taxpayer's money. "Blue Poles" is presently valued at over $104 million.
Some Australian commentators said that a child could have painted it. If
only we could produce such children! The art world concluded that Pollock's
style, as exemplified in the 1952 masterpiece "Blue Poles", meant that "no artist ever approached an empty canvas again in the same way."
Pollock begins in August 1949 when Life Magazine ran the headline: "Jackson Pollock: is he the greatest living painter in the United States?" We then go back to 1941, when he meets the gifted abstract artist, Lee Krasner
(Marcia Gay Harden). She becomes his wife, promoter, mentor, nursemaid and
This powerful film is not easy watching. Pollock (Ed Harris) is violent, abusive, alcoholic and lecherous. He is the epitome of the possessed genius. From a dysfunctional family Pollock lacks confidence and self-esteem. When he gains success he is obsessed by it and becomes an egotist. When he starts drinking again old patterns emerge and he destroys
everything close to him.
Ed Harris, who starred in The Truman Show, Apollo 13 and The Third Miracle,
produces, directs and stars in this film. For his trouble he was nominated
at the 2001 Oscars for Best Director and Best Actor. We can see why. He is
magnificent in both roles. Harris gets the balance right between Pollock's
personal life and the development of his art. Marcia Gay Harden won last
year's Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for her flawless portrayal of the deeply flawed Krasner.
On the surface of it Pollock was an alcoholic. David Day, however, in his
splendid book, "John Curtin: a life", intimates that generations of men and
women drank in an attempt to deal with undiagnosed and untreated chronic
depression. Pollock fits this pattern and, while we may be amazed at, and are richer for what he was able to achieve in his life, this film leaves us wondering about the price he paid for his art and the potential that was unrealised.
Richard Leonard SJ