We are all familiar with the term artistic temperament that tries to apologize for the talented painter’s actions. Jackson Pollock is one recipient of this endeavor. The movie Pollock gives us insight into the life of a 20th century artist who was alive in our own time.
Ed Harris not only starred in this movie as Pollock, he also produced and directed it. His choice of Marcia Gay Harden to play his wife Lee Krasner was a wise one. Both were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances – in fact, Marcia won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
The film begins at the time when Pollock first meets Lee Krasner. It seemed obvious to me that Lee was the aggressor in the romance. In fact, she issued an ultimatum to Pollock after they lived together for a time that they either marry or separate. Pollock of course gave in and they were married.
It was an intelligent decision because Lee was responsible for Pollock’s conquest over his alcoholism for a time as well as his solid work ethic. It was Lee’s resolve that they should move away from New York City and its temptations to a more serene existence on a rural site on Long Island known as The Springs. It worked for a long time. Lee was also responsible for introducing Pollock to Peggy Guggenheim (played by Amy Madigan) and Critic Clem Greenberg (played by Jeffrey Tambor) who brought Pollock’s name before the public and made him a successful artist during his lifetime. Peggy Guggenheim arranged his first one-man show at the Art of This Century Gallery in 1943. She never ceased to support his work and was a life-long friend.
Pollock’s unusual manner of creating his painting was demonstrated to the viewer in several sequences. He preferred to lay his canvas on the floor, thereby allowing him to walk around all four sides of the canvas, using sticks and hardened brushes to apply the paint. He also used household paint instead of artist’s paint, letting it drip and spatter while using his entire body to wield the liquid.
Unfortunately, just at the height of his renown, Pollock reverted to his old drinking habits and began an affair with a young lady, Ruth, portrayed by Jennifer Connelly. We are witnesses to Pollock’s bad temper which he had previously kept under control. In August of 1956 when Pollock was 44 years old, he lost control of his car, killing himself and a friend of Ruth’s, Edith Metzger. Ruth survived the crash; she recently passed away in March 2010.
It is apparent throughout this movie that Ed Harris had a passionate interest in the character of Jackson Pollock. His portrayal was the result of careful study. Harris purchased the rights to the book “Jackson Pollock: An American Saga” by Naifeh and Smith a decade before he fulfilled his dream of bringing it to the screen.
It is futile to imagine what might have been if Pollock had been steadfast in his abstinence and was able to live a long and productive life. The fact remains that he died at an early age. His wife Lee Krasner, however, keeps his name alive through the Pollock-Krasner Foundation which provides financial help to artists.
Movie – Pollock (2000)