Release Date: 2000
Nationality and Language:
Running time: about 122 Minutes
Distributor and Production Company: Sony Pictures Classics
Director; Writer: Ed Harris
Cast: Ed Harris Marcia Gay Harden, Amy Madigan, Jennifer Connelly, Jeffrey Tambor, Bud Cort , John Heard, Val Kilmer, Tom Bower, Robert Knott, David Leary, Julie Anna Rose, Rebecca Wisocky
Technical: regular aspect ratio
Relevance to DOASKDOTELL site: independent artists
Review: Review of Pollock (2000); Sony Pictures Classics, R, 122 minutes
This film about the career of abstract painter Jackson Pollock, played by and directed by Ed Harris, with a tremendous amount of dedication. (Also Marcia Gay Harden, Amy Madigan, Jennifer Connelly, Jeffrey Tambor, Bud Cort , John Heard, Val Kilmer, Tom Bower, Robert Knott, David Leary, Julie Anna Rose, Rebecca Wisocky.) Harris, in fact, goes through quite a transformation in the movie (comparable to Hanks in Castaway but in the opposite direction), gaining 40 pounds or so and displaying a pot belly as the aging painter in the mid 1950s [the movies progresses through times like Giant], although he was decrepit enough in the opening scenes in Greenwich Village when he has gotten out of the War, 4-F, and a non-adaptive alcoholic at that. (A personal note: in 8th grade, I had to write a term paper “The Home Front During World War II,” and this film gives a lot more than the World Book). In one kitchen scene, his brother complains that they’re drafting married men with children if they don’t have civilian defense jobs. So Pollock gets to be “creative” and escape the “responsibilities” or “normal” people, until he gets married himself and wants kids but his wife won’t bring children into a family that can’t support itself because of Pollock’s obsession with his art—himself and not much else from the outside world or other people. There is this line between reality and self-indulgence. Pollock paints brushlessly, using a stick to throw dark colors onto the canvas, and create metallic-looking images (eventually winding up in the Guggenheim) that resemble the cantaloupe surface of Triton. Sometimes the script seems overly inventive, as if trying to stretch this beyond a film that might have been shown on the Biography channel on A&E. The final crash scene is harrowing, more so than a comparable one in Duvall’s film.
As for the “artist’s life” I share some of this, if in a more subtle, temperate manner. I did identify with the character
Art is returning to bars now: one gay bar in
The Christmas season film Mona
Lisa Smile (Columbia, Revolution Studios, 2003, PG-13, dir. Mike
Newell) shows a painting of Pollock as a controversial example of modern art,
as the art history teacher Katherine Watson, played energetically by Julia
Roberts, tries to open the eyes of upper class Wellesley College (Mass.)
girls, most of whom make it plain that they are there for a Mrs. Degree. The
film starts in the fall of 1953, during the heart of McCarthyism and before
the days of Betty Friedan. The students
are amazingly well prepared for her first lecture and shame her out of the
hall (a scene I have trouble believing) but she fights back and quickly
challenges them to think for themselves in determining what is good art of bad. At least one famous painter (Vincent
Van Gogh) never sold in his lifetime, but today his paintings are chopped up
for puzzles by corporate
Well, all that brings me to what I experienced of Cold War era social culture. In the 1960s I taught algebra as an assistant instructor and was relieved of my duties for being too “hard” but then hired again. And, I had been thrown out of William and Mary as a freshman for telling the Dean of Men that I was gay, but really because I had left a relatively “open” social environment (even in 1961) Arlington’s Washington-Lee High School for the more typical Cold War social climate then at William and Mary, where boys saw tribal behavior as normal. What seems shocking to us today was perceived as freedom by people who lived in this culture of new consumerism of the 1950s, even if it seems designed to keep people who didn’t “belong” in the place. (Links are http://www.doaskdotell.com/content/xchap1.htm and http://www.doaskdotell.com/content/xchap2.htm.)
The “Mona Lisa Smile” of course refers to the ambiguous facial expression in the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting. I recall in 9th Grade English writing a violent short story “Who Stole the Mona Lisa?”
During the 2003 Christmas season, NBC aired the 1997 Paramount account of Titanic (dir. James Cameron), where a struggling artist Len Dawson (Leonardo Di Caprio) throws his whole heart and soul (sacrificing himself in the icy waters while she floats on a raft after the 1912 tragedy) to save the upper class girl Rose Bukater (Kate Wislet) that he falls in love with so she can bear children. Part of the justification for the way things were was “women and children first.” I always resent that. Of course, the film expands into social commentary, how the working classes live for today (a “real party”), whereas the rich live for symbolism and appearances. At the end, of course, we find out that the ship was not properly equipped to save any but the rich, and it didn’t do that well. The end is a real tragedy. The story is told through the eyes of an elderly Rose (Frances Fisher) when she visits the underwater site in a modern-day exploration. There are legendary love scenes (as when Len embraces Rose on the stern of the ship in the twilight) and the music score is haunting. This film sold out repeatedly in 1997.
National Geographic’s “Titanic: The Final Secret” (2007) actually describes Robert Ballard’s classified missions to find the USS Thresher and USS Scorpion before he found the Titanic in 1985. Blogger reviews.
An earlier movie on this theme as The Poseidon Adventure (1972, 20th Century Fox, dir. Ronald Neame) which has the claustrophobic plot of a ship turned upsidedown by a tidal wave (because the owners cut corners) and the heroic passengers escape. I saw this in a rerun at Time Square in 1974. I think the song “There Is Always a Morning After” came from this. It has the wistfulness of the Cameron film without the sweep.
This film has been remade in 2005 for NBC, directed by
John Putch, with Steve Guttenberg. In this remake
terrorists blow up the ship, as an overseas “soft target.” Aired
There is still another version of this coming from Warner Brothers and Wolfgang Petersen in 2006.
Finding Neverland (2004,
Miramax, 104 min, PG, dir. Marc Forster) presents another settling with an
artist, this time playwright J. M. Barrie (Johnny Depp)
The other “Finding” film is Finding Forrester (2000,
If you can have a movie about making movies, well, you can have a movie
about writers. Such is Finding Forrester, from
un ami qui vous veut du bien (“A Friend
Like Harry”) (2000, Miramax/Zoe, dir. Dominik Moll,
R, 117 min) is a bizarre thriller where a latent writer Michel (Laurent
Lucas) meets a boyhood friend Harry (Sergi Lopez),
who invites himself into Michel’s home life, especially at their retreat in
Provence, in order to make Michel into a great writer. If only I had such a
patron. (Maybe once I did, but…) Harry, however, turns this into a duel to
the death and a test of masculinity. A big looking thriller where upper
middle class life in
Le Fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulain (2001, Miramax Zoe, dir. Jean-Pierre Juenet, 122 min, R) was a hit film about charity, in almost the Biblical sense. Amelie (Audrey Tatou) returns a knickknack to a former tenant in her apartment, and sets out on a mythical journey to live for others. A lot of magical thinking and pretty images.
My Kid Could Paint That (2007, Sony Pictures Classics / A&E Indie / Axis / Passion, dir. Amir Bar-Lev) an examination of a child prodigy abstract painter whose paintings resemble Pollock’s, blogger discussion here.
Passing (2006, Yari Film Group, dir. wr. Adam Rapp, 98 min, R). An aspiring actress (Reese Deschanel) is approached by a publisher about her
reclusive parents’ letters when her mother dies. Her father (Ed Harris, of
“Pollock”), formerly successful but now an alcoholic, lives as a recluse in
the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in a shack on his own property. She goes, of
course. There is a bit of an ethical and philosophical question concerning
publishing material concerning the love life of one’s parents, perhaps (the
possibility at least got touched on by “I Remember Mama”). An aspiring guitar
musician Corbit (Will Ferrell) lives on the
property. Over a winter (there’s not that much snow), she manages to her
father to write again (“Gold” “
Brideshead Revisited (2008, Miramax / BBC / Hanway, dir. Julian Jarrold, novel by Evelyn Waugh, 135 min, PG-13, UK, related to PBS 1981 miniseries) Waugh’s novel about a biseuxal young artist, who launches his career in pre-WWII Britain with the inspiration of a gay friend at Brideshead Estate. The story is told in retrospect when the estate is used by the British Army during WWII an he is an officer. Matthew Goode, Ben Whislaw. Blogger discussion.
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