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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Spanish, Italian, Czech, Hungarian, Dutch, English - Hearing Impaired, Hindi, Commentary - English
  Extras
  • 4 Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer - Pollock; Riding In Cars With Boys; End Of The Affair; Stepmom; Sunshine State
  • Audio commentary - Director/actor Ed Harris
  • Featurette
  • Interviews - Ed Harris on The Charlie Rose Show
  • Filmographies

Pollock: CE

Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 118 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Paintings, like films, are an intensely subjective matter. What one person finds complex, technically brilliant and reflective of deeper meaning, others may find shallow, inept and void of any discernable message of worth.

For example, the Australian Government believed that the Jackson Pollock work Blue Poles was an important piece to acquire and handed over 1.1 million dollars for the privilege.

From my perspective, while studying Fine Arts at RMIT I recall thinking that the painting was a waste of money, and like many other people, that “My five year old brother could have painted that crap.” Actually, technically speaking, my younger brother was a quite capable budding artist at the time, so he probably could have.

But the years have mellowed me, and now I just think that Pollock was only your typical f*cking loon drunk artist, and his art was just his art, good or bad. It’s not his fault that the art world is full of sycophantic wankers devoid of independent thought and afraid to say what they really think about most art, which is simply “I don’t get it”.

Instead, someone shouts from the rooftops and all the other sheep follow the warcry like lemmings off a cliff.

Know-it-All-Critic: “This piece is cutting edge, reminiscent of Mondrian and Tiepolo, while infusing it with the ultra-didactic linear non-dimensional subdivisionary technique of a Kandinsky on smack while introspectively questioning the very fabric of reality itself.”

Know-Nothing-Public: “Eh? I see two orange sheep and a triangular cauliflower.”

Film - painting. Painting – film. It’s all the same when it comes to the audience, really.

And so we come to the first directorial effort from likable actor, Ed Harris. I think Ed Harris probably understood the problem above. If he didn’t before, then he probably did after he ‘became’ Jackson Pollock for this film. Generally this is a fine effort, but it’s bound to meet criticisms depending on the quarters from which you side.

Not into art and want more meaty exposition in your storytelling? Pollock will frustrate you with severely contracted episodes from his personal life and love with Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden). If you don’t care about his love-life, and just want to gain some kind of understanding of his art and technique, then Pollock will frustrate with the brevity given to the actual painting, opting to create a kind of visual dance with the dripping paint that looks interesting enough, yet is still less than meaningful. Then again, some theory dictates that this is probably more true to what his art was about, being that the true meaning in his painting is that they are recordings of the creation rather than the creation itself. In which case the scenes of his painting methods are perfect.

I guess what it highlights is that if you want a totally thorough expose of his life, loves and works with an in-depth discussion and analysis of the man and his work you should probably read a book instead, because movies (and art) aren’t like that.

Where the film succeeds is in drawing a sketchy outline of the climb of the Pollock star, with enough detail to make you hate his actions, then feel pity for him, then hate him again, and feel sorry for Krasner while possibly gaining a passing interest in his Magnadoodle-style paintings. He does a few bad things (gets drunk a lot and pisses in Peggy Guggenheim's fireplace), he does some nice things (befriending birds and saving a dog), and he paints.

Here Krasner comes in to try and create some kind of frame of reference for the viewer, by attempting to label or explain the source of his art, whether directly to Pollock or when trying to sell Pollock to Peggy Guggenheim.

While Lee is attempting to pigeon hole, Pollock is either off to the side nervously awaiting Peggy’s approval or in another scenes obliviously painting on while Lee babbles. Sometimes this dialogue can be seen as a little too clunky in telling the audience what his work is or isn’t, or alternatively it can be seen as exposing the pretentiousness of the field.

Beneath all this I found the portrayals on screen to admirably succeed in drawing me in to believing they were the characters, not the actors. I didn’t see Harris up there, I saw Pollock (or at least what Harris would have us believe was Pollock, something his physical similarity helped to a large degree), and I saw Krasner as Harden wanted us to see her. Not all of the roles are so successful, with Jeffrey Tambor and Val Kilmer fighting to shed their real skins and become art critic Clement Greenberg and artist De Kooning respectively. Tambor succeeds more in this than does Kilmer, but only by dint of his extended screen time.

But as in many biopics, the end result is dependent on your own ability to be satisfied with the truncated life presented on screen in two hours, and whether in the end you feel you have a better understanding of who they were and what they were about.

I do.

  Video
Contract

This will make you constantly readjust your glasses (or if you don’t wear glasses you’ll be rubbing your eyes), because the picture is very soft to begin with, then often has moments of bad focus. These aren’t transfer problems as the transfer itself looks great, and in fact Harris openly points out the problem shots and admits they were done badly in filming. I’d say there are quite a few more than he points out, but he has other things to talk about as well. Then couple that element with the tendency to shoot many dark interiors, throw in a gritty, grainy look and more often than not cold subdued colours which helps to accentuate the colours of the artwork, and this doesn’t exactly have a picture which inspires your soul to sing out the joys of life. No, even though the transfer is very good and aside from very minor aliasing, this is a grim, arty, down picture as Harris felt befits a story of Pollock, fairly convincingly portraying the impoverished and drunken beginnings before fame hit and then a good deal of the drunken but slightly warmer haze on his downward spiral afterwards as well.

  Audio
Contract

Probably less important in the make-up than the picture quality, the sound-design for a film about artists can’t be too over the top, now can it? The sound of dripping paint is hardly a taxing exercise for 5.1 channels, there's really no need for the brush to pan through the back then make its way to the front and hit canvas with the thump of the subwoofer. It just needs to convey the dialogue clearly, which it does, but there’s not a great deal of it anyway. Some of it is a little low, but you get the feeling this was the intention for realism. The score sounds nice, a light whimsical bit of fluff to set the painting by. Ambient noise is slight, but creates the environments well, without pulling attention.

  Extras
Contract

Director's Commentary – Ed Harris
If you can manage to persevere through what at times sounds like a lecture, Harris has a bit to impart that you may find interesting. There's plenty of focussing on scene specifics, the odd comment about the extras doing a good or bad job and all approached with a quiet almost reverent voice that makes him sound like he doesn’t want to disturb the other people watching the film.

Charlie Rose interview with Ed Harris
More extras like this, please! A 26 minute interview with Harris discussing Pollock, how and why it happened (his Dad thought he looked like Pollock so he sent Harris a book on him and told him he might like to make a film of him). He displays a knowledge of his character and comes across as genuinely interested and absorbed in the person/story/film, unlike actors who talk up their vehicles just because that’s what they’re paid to do.

'Making of' Documentary
Another good bit of viewing, which is a little better than the normal self-congratulatory crap present on many discs. The actors get more than a three-second sound bite to sound out their views, and while it might not be perfect, it does cover a lot of ground satisfactorily.

Deleted Scenes
Four scenes, The Cedar Bar, Lee’s Painting, Infinity at My Fingertips and Stray Dogs. Of these, Lee’s Painting is definitely a scene that should have been left in the final film. It shows an absolute no-no when it comes to art, and fleshes out Lee Krasner’s sacrifice of her own art to help further Pollock’s.

Filmographies
Your standard filmographies for Ed Harris, Marcia Gay Harden, Amy Madigan, Jennifer Connelly, Jeffrey Tambor and Val Kilmer.

Theatrical Trailers
Five trailers in all, for Pollock, Riding in Cars With Boys, End of the Affair, Stepmom and Sunshine State.

  Overall  
Contract

Looking beyond the deficiencies of the story, the dialogue that is sometimes a bit suspect, and the brevity that film enforces on a “life story”, I found Pollock to be compelling viewing, not least due to the uniform high quality of the performances.

Going beyond picture and sound, the bonus material is a perfect compliment to the film, with the commentary, featurette and interview adding greatly to the experience and your understanding of the people involved. Harris should be proud of the results of his first shot in the director's chair, and Columbia Tristar have done a great job with this DVD.


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      And I quote...
    "A must see DVD for anyone interested in art."
    - Vince Carrozza
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-525
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DB1070
    • Speakers:
          Wharfedale s500
    • Centre Speaker:
          Polk Audio CS245
    • Surrounds:
          Wharfedale WH-2
    • Subwoofer:
          DB Dynamics TITAN
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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