"Thus open the gates of paradise."

In this issue


06 Apr 2002

Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden, from
the offical web site

"I don't use the accident because I deny the accident."
-- Jackson Pollock

I don't get it. Here's a film that was released last year, no later than the end of December 2000. That was three months ago. It played at the Toronto Film Festival in September. So how come no one has seen it? Could it be that it was released only in Toronto (and Ottawa, where I saw it)? This is so maddening, it could drive a person to drink [1].

I guess I should talk about the film. Ed Harris plays American abstract artist Jackson Pollock and also directs. Marcia Gay Harden is Lee Krasner, Pollock's wife. The film illuminates Pollock's life from starving artist in New York (before it was fashionable) to feted national success, to being yesterday's laundry.

There are at least three reasons why I think this film is worth watching:

  1. Ed Harris' performance. He's always doing something interesting on screen, and even though he is also the director, you never get the feeling that he's getting too much screen time. Mel Gibson, take note.
  2. Marcia Gay Harden's performance. Krasner puts up with a lot from Pollock. A lot. Harden manages to convey Krasner's of admiration for Pollock (or at least his work), while still being a person in her own right. I sadly remind my gentle readers to seize any chance to see a female character on screen who is neither a prostitute nor an empty vessel for a man's ambition.
  3. Amy Madigan as art collector Peggy Guggenheim and Bud Cort as Pollock's agent Howard Putzel. As a boorish male, I was heartbroken to learn that Madigan is Harris' squeeze; I've always found her screen presence quite mesmerizing. As for But Cort -- well, do you remember him from "Harold and Maude"? Enough said, except for perhaps, "That was Bud Cort?" So he's put on some weight. Big deal.

I wonder if there's such as thing as an "artist bio pic" genre emerging in the local Zeitgeist. Earler in the year I saw "Goya In Bordeaux" (looked great, but the engine was left idling too long) about the Spanish painter. Reaching back, "Artemesia" and "La Belle Noiseuse" come to mind. Of course, the trick is to bring the inside out, to show you paint drying, and to make you like it. 

OK. That's three tricks. Maybe that's why it's still not a genre that anyone pays attention to. Maybe that's why the film hasn't opened anywhere near you. Still. Make the effort to see it.


[1] The Front Page does not endorse drinking and driving. Please consume responsibly.


Related Sites

Pollock (Official Web Site)
Pollock (IMDB)
Guggenheim Bilbao