Pollock: Special Edition

January 28, 2012 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

For years Ed Harris has taken on roles that are not only popular, but that define the movie he’s in as well. From playing John Glenn in “The Right Stuff” to his stricken character of Bud in “The Abyss” Harris has developed a knack for not only appearing in Summer blockbusters, but can hold his own in a serious drama as well. This is very true in his newest movie, Pollock. As many people who saw this movie know, it’s been a while in the making. For some fifteen years, Harris has lobbied with different studios, raised money (and put a lot of his own personal finances toward the making of the movie as well) and has tried to get this movie made. Not only does Harris bear a striking resemblance to the late painter, but his “labor of love” has paid off as one of the best films of the year. Harris was nominated (and I feel, cheated) for an Academy Award for his role here. But the role of Lee Krasner (played to near perfection by Marcia Gay Harden) did merit her an Oscar. One thing that I think separates this film from others is that it was done to inspire and pay tribute as opposed to make money. Naturally, in Hollywood, the bottom line is always “Will it make money…”, but it’s nice to see a film that is well-made, wonderfully acted and in some ways–inspiring. Pollock is not an uplifting movie. That’s to say that the life of Jackson Pollock was depressing, but the movie itself isn’t. Jackson Pollock had a hard life. He was faced with fame, he drank constantly and was never really comfortable with the life that he had. His only semblance came from his relationship with Kasner. While Pollock the movie will leave you wanting more, it’s clear that Pollock the painter was something that we may never see again.

A reporter from “Life” magazine once asked Jackson Pollock “How do you know when you’re finished with a painting?” Pollock responded by saying “How do you know when you’re finished making love?” And in a sense, that’s how Jackson Pollock lived his life. He didn’t know how to handle fame, though he did a fairly good job. He smoked profusely, he drank even more and the art he created was either panned or praised. In any case, Pollock was a master at what he did best. As the movie opens, we see Pollock. Drunk. He’s passing out in an elevator mumbling, or shouting rather, “Fuck Picasso”. Not many people can utter that phrase. Pollock was just at the beginning of his art career. He studied under one man, but his style and substance were night and day. He meets Lee Krasner who he finds out he’ll be doing a show with. Lee is immediately impressed by Jackson’s work and it’s then that the two form a very uneasy bond. Peggy Guggenheim (Amy Madigan, Ed Harris’ real-life wife) visits Pollock’s who was more interested in collecting the painter’s works as well as the painters. Pollock fits right in. Also introduced is Clement Greenberg (Jeffrey Tambor), an art critic who essentially validated the entire subject of Abstract Expressionism. Small, yet memorable roles go to Val Kilmer as Willem de Kooning, Stephanie Seymour as Helen Frankenthaler and John Heard as Tony Smith.

What Pollock tries to say and tries to express are two things that couldn’t be further apart as night and day. We see Ed Harris as an emotionally torn painter who literally has the performance of his life. He has been so enthralled in the making of the movie that it was foolish for him not to direct it. Harris has assembled a top notch cast, and their talent and excitement show throughout the film. While Pollock is a fine movie, it is still a movie about a painter. True, there are some movies out there that have some rather questionable subject matter, but even as popular a painter as Jackson Pollock was, most of us don’t know that much about him; if anything. Personally, I only knew of him from one of my high school art classes, if I had not of taken it, I would probably wonder what Ed Harris was doing. However, I did know about the work of Pollock, and that’s why I have to recommend this film to almost anyone who is either a fan of Ed Harris or Jackson Pollock. It’s almost a shrine to the work that Pollock created. And in the end, you’ll wonder why you had never heard of Pollock.

Video: How does it look?

As with most all titles, Pollock is shown in an anamorphic 1.85:1 image. Being shot on a lower budget, you can expect that the film will not sparkle as bright as some, but Pollock looks, for the most part, very good. A lot of the scenes are dimly lit and that, in turn, will tend to give it a very dark look. The black levels are right on target, but I was surprised to see a little grain on some of the scenes. A fault of the print, I would tend to think. Edge enhancement is minimal, as one might expect for a new movie to a new DVD, the image looks very clear and clean. While this isn’t a reference-quality picture, it looks better than most DVD’s out there, especially ones that were made for so cheap. Anyhow, the story and acting are so eloquent, that the last thing you’ll want to criticize is the quality of the picture.

Audio: How does it sound?

The audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.0 mix, and while it’s not something to give your speakers a workout, it does have it’s moments. While mainly a dialogue-driven movie, Pollock has some scenes where it had my head turn. Paint in surround sound…it’s finally here! The dialogue is clean and clear without any distortion, again, this was expected. The majority of the action is limited to the front two channels, but as I mentioned above, the surrounds do come into play at times. The track is good without being great, but this isn’t the movie to show off your system with by any stretch of the imagination.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Pollock is labeled as a Special Edition, and it does contain a feature-length commentary with Actor/Director Ed Harris. Harris is notably low key during the track, but he does manage to convey his appreciation for the movie as well as his admiration for the attention that it drew. It’s clear to see that Harris loves this movie and as his directorial debut, I think he’ll step behind the camera again, or at least we can all hope so. Also included is a making of documentary, which is like most of the others you’ll find on DVD’s these days. But still, if you’re at all interested in the movie, which I most certainly am, then you’ll want to give it a run. Included as well are some deleted scenes, most of which should have been left out of the movie, but I feel that the rest should have made the final cut. Some DVD-ROM content is also included, as well as a conversation with Charlie Rose. While this film definitely has received the treatment it deserves, I can’t really say that I was fully satisfied. Maybe it’s because I enjoyed it so immensely. Nevertheless, I must recommend it highly.

Be sure to check out our interview with Actor/Director Ed Harris

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