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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Pollock (2000)

"If people would leave the stuff at home and just look at the paintings, I don't think they'd have any trouble enjoying them. It's like looking at a bed of flowers. You don't tear your hair out over what it means."
- Jackson Pollock (Ed Harris)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: July 24, 2001

Stars: Ed Harris, Marcia Gay Harden
Other Stars: Amy Madigan, Jennifer Connelly, Jeffrey Tambor, John Heard, Val Kilmer
Director: Ed Harris

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: R for language and brief sensuality
Run Time: 02h:03m:23s
Release Date: July 24, 2001
UPC: 043396064546
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ A-AA- B+

DVD Review

While attending dinner with friends and family, Jackson Pollock (Ed Harris) is seething due to countless hours under scrutiny from a meticulous filmmaker. Now a world-renowned artist, Pollock is feeling the pressures of fame and the trappings associated with it. As the dinner progresses, his anger grows to a violent rage, and he abruptly tosses the large table over and scatters the food across the floor. This action is yet another in a series of chaotic moments for Pollockˇa tormented artist who produced some of the most inventive pieces in the 20th century.

PollockˇEd Harris' remarkable biopicˇcovers the wide range of tumultuous emotions of this fascinating individual. On one hand, he is an original, talented painter who creates gorgeous landscapes of color without the typical canvas. Sadly, Pollock is also a social misfit and a chronic alcoholic who suffers extreme bouts of depression. At his worst moments, he treats wife Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden) and his family and friends terribly. His destructive fits push aside many of his human relationships. For Pollock, his only positive outlet was painting, and it stood as his only respite from his difficulties in the world.

The most engaging scenes involve Pollock painting with an amazing blend of precision and grace. Over the charming musical score, he weaves together colors with flowing paint that combine to create enchanting works. Within his studio out in the country, Pollock appears totally comfortable, and the cares of society are far removed from his thoughts. Harris nicely conveys his pure joy of painting through subtle movements and expressions that indicate a surprising amount of self-esteem. While discussing his works with a reporter at Life Magazine, Pollock speaks concisely and without the haughtiness of the intellectual society of New York. Instead, he keeps his words simple and poignant without appearing aloof. When asked how he knows the painting is finished, Pollock responds by asking how one knows when they're finished making love. This type of answer is typical of this man, who created his art more for himself than for the acclaim of his contemporaries.

Pollock succeeds through the efforts of an excellent supporting cast who immerse themselves within the intricacies of each character. The pivotal role comes from Marcia Gay Harden (Space Cowboys), who plays Krasner as a talented artist who basically gives up her life's work to support Pollock. Their relationship varies from the usual love story because they share very few compassionate moments. Krasner obviously believes in his art, but it's never clear whether she truly loves the man. In one of their few enjoyable moments together, the two stroll down the beach and discuss their wedding plans. However, their marriage fails to reach the level of total emotional commitment. Instead, Pollock fools around with other women and abuses himself with alcohol. Krasner sticks with him despite his social inadequacies. Harden won a well-deserved Best Supporting Actress Oscar® for this role, and she embodies Krasner with stern individualism and intelligence. Although Pollock is the key figure, she's always there for him throughout the inner turmoil.

The remaining key players in the cast also provide plenty of entertaining moments throughout the story. Amy MadiganˇHarris' actual wifeˇplays Peggy Guggenheim, the eccentric art maven who supports Pollock at the beginnings of his success. Robert Knott brings depth to Sande Pollockˇa caring man who must deal with the numerous troubles of his brother. Val Kilmer and John Heard show up quickly in minor roles, but they hardly register a blip and have extremely limited time on the screen: it's probable that much of their roles ended up on the cutting room floor. Also, Jennifer Connelly brings her pretty face to a brief (but important) role in the concluding moments.

Throughout the film, Ed Harris proves his directorial mettle and doesn't go over the top during the emotional moments. While he's still learning the craft, he succeeds in his debut by allowing the characters and the art to carry the story. Pollock has been his pet project for years, and the ultimate result showcases his dedication to it. It's a saddening film about an often-depressing character, but everything is presented with a sense of unblinking realism. Although we fail to completely understand Pollock's motivations, we've taken the journey and gained a greater knowledge of this famous artist.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Pollock features a wonderful 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that sparkles with color. Especially impressive are the outdoor scenes on the beach and near their house, which shine and are free from blemishes or haziness. The creativity and majesty of Pollock's paintings come through nicely here and help to explain his popularity and success. A few glitches do appear, but they're extremely minor and only pop up in a few instances. Little grain exists on this picture, and it stands as one of the better transfers on any recent DVD release.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: During Pollock's painting sessions, the melodic score helps to generate the excitement and mood within the artist. The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer carries the music through all corners of the sound field and aids the story effectively. This is a top-notch presentation, with the dialogue mixed nicely with the lesser sounds. Everything is easily understandable, and the result is an impressive presentation. This disc also contains a 2.0-channel Dolby Surround track, which varies only slightly for the superior digital one. It also has plenty of power and grace, and it leads to an enjoyable time.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Thirty Two Short Films About Glen Gould
4 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Ed Harris
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Charlie Rose interview with Ed Harris
Extras Review: This special edition of Pollock includes several enjoyable features that help to enhance our knowledge of the painter and this production. Although I would have liked even more information about the artist (possibly in documentary form, like in Jackson Pollock), these extras do provide some good insights. The most notable feature is a commentary track from director/producer Ed Harris, whose origins on the project began many years ago, and its ultimate release is a testament to his fortitude. Harris literally whispers through this track and is often difficult to understand, even with the volume turned up high. However, he does give an intriguing look into his thought processes for the story. Instead of providing dull technical background about the shooting, he tries to explain his feelings about the man and his works. Harris is extremely intelligent and thoughtful, but his words sometimes veer towards dull descriptions of the events on screen. Still, this track is a worthwhile listen for fans of the film who want to learn a bit more about its creation.

Another enjoyable extra is the 21-minute documentary Pollock: Behind the Scenes, which covers each element of the production. Interviews with Harris, Marcia Gay Harden, and other significant cast and crew members help to shed light on the movie. The highlight concerns the reproduction of Pollock's paintings, which required diligent work for lengthy periods of time by artists. While this documentary is interesting, it's impossible to ignore the poor picture quality. Many of the interviews and included scenes are surprisingly hazy for a recently produced feature. While it's not too distracting, it's notable because it makes little sense here.

The other major feature is an interview with Ed Harris from an episode of The Charlie Rose Show. Once again, the star speaks poignantly about Pollock and his reasons for tackling the project. Rose is never the type to ask the usual questions, and the conversation moves beyond the normal promotional fodder. Also, it provides some nice information about the artist for those who are not acquainted with his career.

The remaining supplements include four deleted scenes, cast filmographies, and the theatrical trailer. The cut scenes run for about six minutes, and all could have worked in the final product. The most interesting deletion has Pollock re-working one of Lee Krasner's paintings while she sleeps. Her angered response shows great work by Harden, and it's unfortunate that it was cut. I'm curious about Harris' reasons for these cuts, and it's too bad there's no commentary with these scenes. This disc also has selected filmographies for Harris, Harden, Amy Madigan, Jennifer Connelly, Jeffrey Tambor, and Val Kilmer. The trailer comes in the full-frame version and sports a mediocre transfer. While this is a nice special edition, it falls short of the best DVD releases. The extras are interesting, but lack the fascination inspired by the premier editions.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Before viewing Pollock, I knew only the basic information about this artist and his legacy. Featuring an excellent starring performance by Ed Harris, this film gracefully presents Pollock at the best and worst moments in his difficult life. Although it can offer only a limited amount of material within two hours, this story provides a good starting point for new audiences to discover this talented individual.


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