Screen Reviews


Directed by Ed Harris

Starring Ed Harris, Marcia Gay Harden, and Amy Madigan

Born old and alcoholic, Jackson Pollock (Harris) captures the art world by throwing paint with stick. Prior to his insight, brushes, sponges, and old copies of The Saturday Evening Post sufficed. Lee Krassner (Harden) saw his potential, moving in on his Greenwich Village flat and keeping him from drinking himself to death or electrocuting himself while urinating on light fixtures. You gotta love that in an artist.

With Lee’s incessant plugging, Peggy Guggenheim “discovers” him. She collected modern artists like Pokemon cards, leading to the question “Could Pollock take Picasso and DeKooning (Val Kilmer) in a fair fight, or would he need help from Brancusi?” Makes you wonder. Well, after moving to Long Island for his health (he was less likely to be run over while dead drunk in the street out in the country), Pollock’s 15 minutes flamed in and out with a Life Magazine spread. He stopped drinking, but not having the DT’s freaked him out and improved his technique, so he had to quit not drinking. It’s really a heartwarming moment. Oh, yeah, then he accidentally kills his girlfriend’s friend and himself. But boy, could he dribble paint.

Pollock probably did more to convince people that anyone could make modern art, if only they drank enough and gave up on social niceties like showing up on time. And lets face it, modern art is a scam – one year it’s black rectangles, then distorted flags, now it’s photographs of bodily fluids, maybe Chihuahua dogs in clown hats next year. It’s not like it has some deep insight into the human condition – it’s sofa art for the wealthy. Harris is excellent conveying that message – if he wasn’t an artist, he might make a bad longshoreman or a milk truck driver. Harden’s Krassner goes through the whole two hours with a Betty Page haircut – a complete transition from slutty vamp to randy Mrs. Robinson to sad relic in the dark days when paint drips were replaced with red zigzaggy things. With the smell of stale cigarettes and turpentine just beyond the screen, the artist’s life of absinthe and lust reveals itself as grinding poverty and self-promotion with precious little to promote. Of course, you do get to sleep with whatever moves if you’re sober enough to get it up, but there’s no health insurance or 401(k). Ah Boheme! Ca plan por moi!

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