Published Sep 01, 2000Ed Harris's directorial debut about famed abstract expressionist artist Jackson Pollock is a competent and ambitious bio-pic about post-war America's most celebrated but deeply troubled painter. Pollock was a mentally unstable, drunk and abusive man, especially towards his wife, the talented but overshadowed Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden). While Harris, Harden and a supporting cast including Amy Madigan as Peggy Guggenheim, Jeffrey Tambor as art critic Clement Greenberg and Val Kilmer as Willem DeKooning all add to the film's appeal, the real stars are the Pollock canvasses recreated for the film. The huge, wall-sized paintings are breathtaking even on a screen, coming alive with a rage and genius unique to American art. The film opens with a drunk Pollock stumbling into his brother's New York City apartment (which he shares with the brother and his pregnant wife), and doesn't relent from focussing on his drinking problem, which would eventually kill him in 1956. Pollock's weakness for the bottle, the harsh personal standards he set for himself and his need for approval all ripped him apart, killing his full creative potential by the early 1950s. Filmed on the actual Pollock-Krasner estate on Long Island, the tone and mood of the film is dark, brooding and turbulent. It was here that Pollock developed his celebrated controlled-drip technique, which launched him to international critical acclaim and marked him as the most powerful voice in American art. It was here he and Krasner fled the dangers and temptations of the city, and the demons that would consume and eventually destroy him. Pollock's character suffered from severe flaws, but this film contains more than the drama surrounding his life and death; it provides a deeper understanding of Pollock and his work, something that would interest any lover of the visual arts.