Originally Published: April 13, 2001 7:15 p.m.
By SANDY MOSS
The movie "Pollock" is more appropriate for the art aficionado – specifically the modern art devotee – than for the general public.
Even the all-star leads fail to make this movie eminently watchable by the general public.
"Pollock," is a myopic biopic of abstract artist Jackson Pollock. Ed Harris both directs and plays Pollock.
Marcia Gay Hardin portrays Pollock's long-time lover and fellow artist, Lee Krasner.
Hardin won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role. Harris was nominated for Best Actor.
At heart, "Pollock" was an interminably long movie about a strange life oddly lived.
Even as an avid fan of artsy movies and biographies, I found myself bored and fidgety during "Pollock."
Jackson (Paul) Pollock was born in 1912. He suffered from bouts of depression and resurfacing alcoholism that rendered him virtually unable to function in normal society.
While living in Greenwich Village in 1941, Pollock received his first break as an artist when Peggy Guggenheim (Amy Madigan) took up his cause after his discovery by art scout Howard Putzel and with the encouragement of Lee Karsner.
Guggenheim featured Pollock in the "Art of This Century" show in October 1942.
At the behest of Lee Karsner, he moved to a country home on Long Island in 1945 to pursue his painting in a less destructive (for him) atmosphere than New York City.
Eventually wearing his welcome out with Guggenheim, Pollock showed several times at the Betty Parsons Gallery through 1950.
He won widespread acclaim and received overwhelming financial support from the abstract art world, which claimed Jackson Pollock was a revolutionary in abstract expressionism.
He accidentally killed himself in a drunken car accident in 1956.
As one who admittedly lacks a true appreciation for most abstract art, I found Pollock's paintings as scrambled as his mind.
Even Pollock admitted his paintings were without organized motivation, but only "spontaneous gesture," as Karsner once tried to analyze Pollock's painting.
Is it influenced by surrealism, cubism, a dream? She asks. "Surely you're not just randomly putting on paint? One can only abstract from nature."
"I am nature," Pollock replied unceremoniously. "It's all (b.s.) anyway."
With the public lending Pollock a mystique equalling the Emperor's New Clothes, critics revered his impulsive paint-splattered abandon as "genius."
But ultimately, "Pollock" was not meant to be a judgment of his art. Rather it was a movie about Jackson Pollock's adult life and his painting within that life – a perfect example of much ado about nothing.
Pollock was more than an eccentric, he appeared mentally unbalanced. At least the way Harris portrayed him.
A written bio of Pollock makes him sound intelligent and articulate, both of which did not come through in Harris' character. In the movie, Pollock barely spoke a complete sentence, mumbling inconsequential monosyllables instead and seemed hardly a conscious entity.
Whether Harris portrayed Pollock accurately or not is almost beside the point. The movie lacked depth, such as when Pollock started painting and why? What in his early life (besides a brief look at his dysfunctional family) created the strange and immature man that was Jackson Pollock?
Without previous study or knowledge about Pollock, this movie is inscrutable for average folks.
I dislike discouraging people from exploring less mainstream movies. But, though "Pollock" is thought provoking about why we exalt certain art and artists, it is not for the faint of "art."
Rated R for adult subject matter, this Sony Pictures Classics was based on the book, "Jackson Pollock: An American Saga," by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith.