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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
Harris splashes out on art biopic
Ed Harris as the tortured artist
Ed Harris captures Pollock's artistic mindset

Ed Harris does intensity and he does it big.

Whether playing a secret service man in A Beautiful Mind or the German sniper in Enemy at the Gates, his piercing blue eyes seem to light up the most mediocre film.

And he is equally attention-commanding as the mentally-ill mastermind in this far from mediocre directorial debut.

Pollock is perhaps the greatest American painter of the 20th Century, a name that trips off the tongue along with Picasso, Dali and Matisse.

His visions in spattered paint remain iconic and as powerful now as they were half a century ago.

Ed Harris
"The creation of the masterpieces is very realistic"
The film tells the story of his rise to prominence in the 1940s under the patronage of New York art scene puppeteer Peggy Guggenheim and the protection of wife Lee Krasner.

Krasner is the most understanding wife in history, putting her own art career to one side to help foster Pollock's genius in the Long Island countryside.

The way Harris captures the mechanics of Pollock's painting and his artistic mindset is the film's strongest suit.


Harris the director's visuals are starkly beautiful and much of the film is spent following the creation of Pollock's masterpieces in a very realistic manner.

Only the "lightbulb moment" when he first discovers the splattering technique, provides a cringeworthy moment.

Character players put in powerful performances, with Larry Sanders-stalwart Jeffrey Tambor masterly as a favourable art critic and Amy Madigan amusing as the awkward but powerful Guggenheim.

Harden plays Pollock's wife, Lee Krasner
Marcia Gay Harden won an Oscar for her role
The weakest characters are Pollock's family who rarely escape the two-dimensional, and Val Kilmer as fellow superstar artist Willem DeKooning is his usual wooden self.

The weakness of Pollock is the weakness of all biopics.

They can only be great films if the lives on which they are based have narrative strength themselves.

Pollock's life is no earth-shattering story - the man is a pain, the man is indulged because of genius potential, genius status is achieved, then follows a slide into ruin commences.

For much of the film the artist undulates between being an alright guy to a drunken, childish, attention-seeking monster.


Pollock's life is complicated and shot through with tortured genius, but there must have been some reason his family, friends and wife loved him, and it is not adequately expressed in the film.

Pacing is also weak towards the end, with Jennifer Connelly's character skated over so quickly we only find out her name after the film ends.

Pollock is worth it because Harris and Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden as Krasner are great, because it looks stunning and because it carries an interesting message about art and artistic bravado.

Pollock says: "Paint is paint. Surface is surface. That is all."

And the pomp, pretension and Pseud's Corner prose of the illiterate that fill art catalogues are the antithesis of Pollock.

His work is a power that needs no talking up.

Pollock is on general release in the UK from Friday 24 May.

"Creating the art was a huge assignment"
"See the trailer"
See also:

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