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Reviewed September 16th, 2001 by Brian White


Pollock is a complicated story about a complicated man. Jackson Pollock was a modern artist who created or popularized the paint splatter and dribbling technique. Ed Harris brings the artist to life in this interesting movie. Pollock knew fame in his life, and he saw his creative potential realized. He was also tormented by his own demons, suffering from depression and alcoholism. The artist was very much propped up by his wife, Lee Krasner. Marcia Gay Harden won a well-deserved Academy Award for her portrayal as Krasner. I was angry about Russell Crowe’s Oscar after seeing Cast Away, and seeing Harris’ fantastic performance in Pollock makes me even angrier about the Best Male award this year.

Ultimately, Pollock can be a difficult movie at times. His life wasn’t a chuckle per minute, but this movie is an experience onto itself.

During Pollock, I found myself impressed with some of the beautifully shot scenes. I thought that this was the work of a visually inventive director. There are lush scenes of nature, both at Pollock’s country home, and with the rolling waves on the beach. Added to that are some artful shots here and there with Pollock and his shadow. Imagine my shock and surprise to read Ed Harris’ name as director at the end of the film. This was his first film. What a great success.

The video quality on this DVD is quite nice in places, and somewhat soft in others. The color reproduction is very well done, and it represents the paintings well. There are occasional artifacts from the source material, and the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer exhibits a slight graininess that is very film-like. The cinematography is well represented, and there is a great amount of detail evident in some scenes.

The audio mix is very interesting. The 5.1, Dolby Digital mix seems only evident in the front channels during most of the film. The jazzy score is mixed very well across the front, with great separation. When the movie moves into nature, you get some great ambiance coming from the surrounds. You hear wind, birds, and that sort of thing coming from the back of the room. The effect is not overdone, but perfect for the film. This is an interesting, and satisfying audio mix.

The disc includes a screen-specific commentary track by Harris where he is very open, although in a mumbly sort of way, about the film. Right off the bat, he complains about the “fucking extra with the hat,” behind his character in the opening shot. This movie also boasts one of the best layer changes that I’ve seen: right after the family portrait is shot, there is a still shot, and then the layer change. This is perfect for the pause that usually accompanies such a change. There is a behind the scenes featurette that features some of Harris’ directing technique, and lots of information about Pollack. Also included is an interview with Harris on the Charlie Rose PBS show.


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