This sympathetic but honest bio-pic was a long-cherished project for actor-director Ed Harris, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock. Harris’s unobtrusive direction and some flawless performances make the most of a solid, if slightly plodding screenplay, and while Harris’ film clearly venerates Pollock as an artist, it never resorts to special pleading where his troubled personality in concerned.
When Life Magazine ran a cover story in 1949, with the headline, Jackson Pollock: is he the greatest living painter in the United States?, he became America’s first Art celebrity. But the intensely shy Pollock was mortified by the myth that grew up around him: obsessed with honesty and authenticity, he dreaded being seen as a phoney. For a short documentary film, Norbert Weisser persuaded Pollock to drip paint onto a sheet of glass, to illustrate his unique method. Pollock thought this was a shocking lie.
if Pollock was hard on himself, however, he was even harder on his long-suffering wife, Lee Krasner (Marcia Fay Harden). His bouts of depression, drunken tirades and pathological need for approval also took their toll of his friends. Pollock pissed in the fireplace at a fancy party given by rich socialite Peggy Guggenheim (Amy Madigan), who had kick-started his career by commissioning a giant mural for her New York apartment. He also fell out with influential art critic Clement Greenberg (Jeffrey Tambor), who did so much to establish his reputation. By the time Pollock died in a car crash in 1956, he had damaged many loyal and loving friends as he hurtled blindly down the road to everlasting fame. Nigel Floyd
U.S.A., 2000. Colour. Dolby digital stereo.
122 mins.

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