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Passion and pain: Pollock (DVD)



Jackson Pollock, Full Fathom Five, 1947
  • Jackson Pollock, "Full Fathom Five," 1947

Eventually I will stop talking about how awesome Netflix is. Today is not that day.

Last weekend, still on an artist's high (it's like a runner's high but with less jogging) after watching Modigliani, I queued up Pollock, the 2000 biopic of abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock starring Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden. Both were nominated for Oscars — Harden won for Best Supporting Actress — and the more I think about it, Harris should've won for his performance. Pollock's struggles with alcoholism and depression (perhaps manic depression) shone through Ed Harris, to the point that I didn't like him by the end of the movie. More than dislike, however, was sympathy. There were a few scenes where Harris just looked at another character and a weight hung in the air, making it difficult to breathe. I wanted to time travel and help Harden, portraying Pollock's wife Lee Krasner, coax along Pollock's genius. At the very least, I wanted to help Pollock fight his demons and critics, who may have been one and the same.

Two scenes in the movie, at roughly the 30-minute and one-hour mark, are magical. The music is well chosen — its speed follows Pollock as he fairly dances around a canvas on the floor, dripping and spilling paint in wild abstractions that leave the viewer to define what they're seeing. Krasner said Pollock "used to give his pictures conventional titles... but now he simply numbers them. Numbers are neutral. They make people look at a picture for what it is - pure painting." His fiercest supporter, Krasner stayed by Pollock's side through his disease, even when their relationship had all but broken down. The movie was based on Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith's Jackson Pollock: An American Saga, which brings my list of books I want to read to roughly 47,000. I look forward to learning more about the artist's life, tragic though it was.


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