Pollock (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This film was a labor of love for Ed Harris, and represented virtually a one-man project. He originally commissioned the screenplay, produced, directed, and starred in the film.

It is the story of the American painter Jackson Pollock, considered by many to be the most influential American painter of the 20th century, from the time that he met his wife in 1941 (fellow painter Lee Krasner) to the fatal drunken driving accident that ended his life in 1956 at age 44.


none (a topless woman appeared in a painting, but that's it)

Marcia Gay Harden was seen in a slip, and again in a bra

Jennifer Connelly wore some summer dresses and a 1950-style bathing suit.

Harris obviously has a great passion for this subject, and his enthusiasm is matched with a close physical and spiritual resemblance to the great Abstract Expressionist that allows him to use his own natural haunted look to duplicate the manic-depressive fluctuations in Pollocks's character. Harris seems perfect to me in this role. Pollock wasn't an effete intellectual, but a masculine guy from Wyoming, a high school dropout who loved his cigarettes and booze, and a cold Schlitz. His paintings created themselves when he had his bursts of manic energy, and Pollock contended that he just opened up his mind and let them come out. Someone once told him that even abstract art had to be abstracted from something in nature, to which he responded "I am nature". The combination of intense artist with everyday square-jawed guy next door is a role ideally suited for Harris, and Harris completed the illusion by acquiring thirty pounds and a beard to play the artist in the later stages of his life.

Harris is also brilliant at recreating the various Pollock techniques. The camera shows him painting with both brush strokes and the drip method, and you would swear that he was creating the actual Pollock paintings. I assume Harris isn't a great painter, so he must have done some great acting and a lot of homework.

The film is focused on the artistic process, and the details of Pollock's relationships with people are much less important than his relationship with his canvases. Although Pollock was a complex and protean man, his dominant behavior pattern was that of a loner and an introvert, who reached inside his own subconscious for inspiration. In the film, Pollock stares at a canvas for what seems like days, then bursts in action like Johnny Storm yelling "flame on!", and runs around the canvas like a man possessed, casting great gobs of color here and there with a logic comprehensible only to himself. He didn't speak much to outsiders. His wife Lee acted as his surrogate mother, nanny, secretary, apologist and muse. Pollock was an alcoholic who really needed Lee to help him with life's details as well as to keep him focused on his work.

Unfortunately, an artistic process as internalized, as devoid of people and places as Pollock's was, doesn't always make for great entertainment.

Whether you like the film or not depends on what you would like the film to be.

  • If you'd like to see a documentary approach which tries to recreate the source and method of Pollock's art, as well as the New York art scene in the 1940's, this movie does that well. Harris made the movie he wanted to make, rich with period detail and outstanding acting. It is very similar to something you might see on "Biography", except with re-creations instead of original footage.
  • If you'd like to see an entertainment picture with a contrived literary or cinematic structure, this isn't it. It tells the story mostly in chronological order, and it spends a lot of time showing Pollock painting, showing his paintings, or preparing to paint. If you aren't already interested in the subject matter, it doesn't try to reach out to you in any way.

Some of my favorite details from the film:

Pollock is shown selling one of his paintings for a $56 grocery bill and a case of Schlitz. Just a few days later, he gets a call from Life magazine, and is elevated from starving artist to national celebrity.


"How do you know when you're finished with a painting?", he was asked by a reporter from Life magazine.

"How do you know when you're finished making love?", he responded.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • four brief deleted scenes

  • full-length director's commentary

  • "making of"

  • Charlie Rose interview with Ed Harris.

Jackson Pollock's

"Lavender Mist"

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: no consensus, but three stars was about the average. Ebert 4/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, Apollo 71.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. Most people found enough positives to endorse it for the targeted audience. 75% positive overall, 79% from the top critics.

  • The movie was nominated for two acting Oscars. Ed Harris was nominated as Best Actor, Marcia Gay Harden won best supporting Actress.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.6, near classic levels, but Apollo users 44/100. Viewers were able to reach no more consensus than critics.
  • With their dollars ... it was made for 6 million dollars. It was released into a few theaters in December for Oscar eligibility, and was re-released in limited distribution (32 screens) in late February. At this moment, I'm not sure how much that distribution will be expanded, but it doesn't look like a mass audience film.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. If you are interested in the topic, it is like a thoughtful documentary. Ed Harris makes a solid directing debut, concentrating on period detail, chronological progression, and letting the actors do their thing to present the essence of the New York art scene in the 1940's.

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