Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Splatters

Pollock. (2000) D: Ed Harris. Ed Harris, Marcia Gay Harden. The outline of  Jackson Pollock's life makes for a promising film. A Westerner moves to Greenwhich Village on the eve of World War II and develops a signature painting style that makes him one of the most significant artists of the 20th Century and one of the greatest American artists ever. Though misunderstood early on and plagued by alcoholism, with the support of his wife (artist Lee Krasner), Pollock eventually catches the attention of influential art collectors and critics, finally achieving world renown. Unable to shake his alcoholism, Pollock dies prematurely in a 1956 auto accident, leaving behind him a legacy that placed him at the pinnacle of the Abstract Expressionist movement.

Unfortunately, the film -- while undoubtedly well made and well acted -- rarely probes beyond the outline. We're left with an interesting story that doesn't attempt to understand Pollock's motivations or even what he wanted to accomplish with his art. As the film portrays Pollock, it's hard to see why Krasner (Harden's Academy Award winning performance is one of the best things about the film) had any romantic interest in the monosyllabic artist, who seems inarticulate and utterly devoid of charm. Krasner comes across as a PR booster, when in real life she was a significant influence of Pollock's work and vital to his development as a painter.

The strongest part of Pollock comes in the middle, when Jackson and Lee escape New York for the serenity and isolation of the Hamptons. Harris (as director and actor) depicts a convincing period of spiritual regeneration for the artist that culminates in the perfection of his pouring technique and in his abandonment of what were thought to be essential materials like easels and oils. The scenes of Pollock painting are among the film's best: the brushes function as an extension of Harris' body, which moves around and over and on the canvas with rapt intensity. 

More than most artists, you can't appreciate a Jackson Pollock painting until you actually see one. Each work I've seen completely merits every accolade his work has received; it's like holding up a mirror to a battered soul. They have a profound unity and a complex structure completely removed from the stereotype of random and careless splatters. As the size and scope of Pollock's work is vast, reducing it to small reproductions greatly diminishes this sense of wholeness, no matter how skilled the bookmaker.

That, unfortunately, sums up Pollock: It's good as far is it goes, but frustrating for how much further it could have gone. We're voyeurs of key moments of Pollock's life, but when the movie is over, we don't understand much more about him and his work than can be gleaned from a Wikipedia article. Nonetheless, any film that calls serious attention to the work of a great painter can't be dismissed. Harris' respect and love for his subject are evident throughout, but you'll keep hankering for more and may find yourself thinking that there ain't nothing like the real thing...

Want make a Pollock painting yourself? Go to this ultracool web site and drag your mouse any which way you can. Click to change colors, hold down the mouse to create blots, and press the Space bar to clear the canvas...

Like most Democrats, I think Holy Joe Lieberman deserved the political equivalent of having his thumbs broken. I even think there are sound political reasons for doing same. But Barack Obama thinks otherwise, and who am I to tell Barack Obama what to do politically? Over at The Nation, John Nichols explains that grass roots disgust with Holy Joe never translated into a structured effort to defenestrate him...

I have no problem with Obama naming Tom Daschle and Eric Holder to his cabinet (or Rahm Emmanuel to his staff). Yes, Daschle represents the Democratic establishment of the 90's. Yes, Emmanuel and Holder were members of the Clinton Administration. Yes, on the surface none of the three symbolizes change for the sake of change. But Obama's relationship with Emmanuel goes back to Chicago, and both Daschle and Holder were key campaign advisors. Holder was publicly critical From here, it looks Obama has so far gone with people he knows and trusts, and whose counsel and advice is proven...

What he said goes for me...

Congratulations to the Little Engine That Could, American League MVP Dustin Pedroia. And if Dustin is 5'9", I'm 25 years old and look like George Clooney...

Poor Mike:


Attractive Girls Union Refuses To Enter Into Talks With Mike Greenman

3 comments:

Foxessa said...

It was at this time of the year I saw that film, when it came out.

I loved it, though more for the recreation of how New York and Long Island looked back then, than for the bio of an artist. Movies simply cannot resist making the creation of art look, well, melodramatic in ways that the application of creativity -- i.e. WORK -- just isn't.

Have you seen the Basquiat bio pic (1996)? Our neighborhood was shut down for weeks for the filming of that. We actually remember, because we lived here then, the places they attempted to re-create.

Again, this movie too, went over the top in terms of the artist and him, you know, actually working.

Why do movies never let you know how much WORK it is to make books, art, music? They always portray it as though the work just pours out effortlessly.

Love, C.

HelenWheels said...

I totally loved "Pollock" as well. I agree it could have delved more, but it was entertaining and I adore Ed Harris and yes, Harden did a fantastic job. I actually watched it twice (so far). ONe of the most interesting scenes for me was the one where family come to visit them, and Pollack and Krasner are portrayed as so utterly self-absorbed that the rest of the family doesn't really know how to react. I guess that would be the awkwardness that alcoholics tend to cause.

THanks, C. for reminding me about Basquiat! I've always wanted to see it & keep forgetting.

OH and K., which Sarah Palin site do you monitor?? I did a google search & couldn't figure out which site was yours.

K. said...

Helen, I wouldn't exactly call it "mine." At least, don't let that get around! Here it is:

http://palinforvp.blogspot.com/