I would take a guess that most actors have a project in mind that they've been thinking about for years, working out in their head, researching and planning. Not all of them ever gain enough fame to bring their project to life and even for some who do get famous enough, it takes years of development. Ed Harris has always been fascinated with the subject of painter Jackson Pollock and has been working on directing a biopic for several years - due to the fact that he resembles the subject also helped in his decision to star, as well.
The final result is a picture that, like Pollock's life, has its share of ups and downs. When Harris as Pollock actually begins to feel the inspiration and pick up a brush to paint, the movie soars. Harris attacks the canvas like a man possessed and the results are often breathtaking. It's the matter of getting behind what made Jackson Pollock tick where the movie comes up rather short. While the picture doesn't quite focus on what inspired or troubled the man as much as it maybe could have, the film does provide a very nice history of his life and those he worked with, such as Lee Krasner (award-winner Marcia Gay Harden) and Peggy Guggenheim (Harris's wife Amy Madigan).
At the core of the film though is something that many can likely understand greatly - losing yourself in expression; creating something out of a previously blank space and having it be appreciated or hated - simply bringing something to life enough that it gains a reaction. It's too bad that this couldn't have been more of a focus of "Pollock" as, instead, Harris focuses quite a bit on the self-destructive behavior of the painter. He drinks constantly, doesn't really know how to act in social situations and is often a depressed soul. "Pollock" lingers a bit too long on some of these sequences and, as a result, some of the early going begins to drag on. Yet, I do have to give Harris credit for not going overboard with his portrayal of some of the darker moments, which could have turned into heavier drama. Marcia Gay Harden is also terrific, rightfully gaining awards notice for her portrayal of the woman who stuck by Pollock through thick and thin.
"Pollock" doesn't let us in completely into Jackson Pollock's life and times, but it does certainly offer some extremely fine performances and at least a solid overview of the artist's life.
VIDEO: "Pollock" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Although Columbia/Tristar has generally done superb to outstanding work in the past, some of their recent releases have slightly dropped down to just being...well, very good. "Pollock" presents the film with fine sharpness and detail; a few of the scenes looked slightly soft, but not enough to present any real concern. The exterior scenes had a fair amount of depth to the image, while the interior scenes came off as rather "flat".
There were a few noticable problems throughout the movie; the film inconsistently looks a little grainy, especially in some of the dimly lit scenes. Edge enhancement also is noticable now and then - not a major amount, but enough to occasionally be visible. I didn't see any pixelation, but there were a few print flaws that occasionally popped up; a speckle here, a slight mark there. Nothing that's going to take away from the viewing experience, but some might find one or two of the flaws noticable.
Colors looked fairly good throughout the movie; the scenes in the country look somewhat more natural and pleasing, but overall, colors appeared well-saturated and clean looking. This is a nice transfer, but some of the faults do take away from the overall presentation enough to keep it at average level.
SOUND: As "Finding Forrester" wasn't able to make much in the way of surround sound out of writing, "Pollock" isn't able to do much with the sound of painting, either. "Pollock" is, first and foremost, a character driven drama, so the dialogue really is the sole focus point for many of the film's scenes. The film's score does open outward slightly, but for the most part, "Pollock" seems to be comfortable simply remaining in the center speaker. There are one or two instances of surround use, but they're brief and hardly noticable. Certainly nothing too agressive or even active, but I doubt anyone was expecting "Pollock" to shake the walls. "Pollock" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.0
MENUS:: The menus are non-animated, although nicely decorated with film-themed images. The main menu has the score playing behind it, as well.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director and actor Ed Harris. Harris contributed some commentary to the Criterion edition of "The Rock" and his sort of low-key, modest and sincere way of speaking returns again for the length of "Pollock". Harris's low-key way of speaking is similar to Oliver Stone's - that way of speaking that's soft, but pulls you in. Harris also is quite honest about his feelings for specific scenes, talking about how elements may not quite have worked out the way he wanted them to. Although Harris does have praise for the actors that he worked with and some of the crew, it's refreshing to not hear - "this was great, they were great, we're great." Harris is able to keep things going throughout the majority of the movie; it's obvious that he came into the commentary prepared to discuss his history with the film and what it was like during production.
Charlie Rose Interview: I've never watched the Charlie Rose show other than the interviews that have been included as supplements on DVDs like this one. Although he has a terrific reputation as a great interviewer, I've never found his efforts to bring out that much interesting insight from the interviews that I've seen. This is one of the better ones though, and Rose is able to get a fairly good amount of information about Harris's history with the project as well as his feelings about the work of Pollock. Worth a viewing.
Making Of Documentary: At nearly 22 minutes, this is certainly one of the better "making of" documentaries that I've seen in recent months, covering the production well and also giving a nice, although brief, overview of Pollock's history and work.
Also: 4 deleted scenes, trailers for "Pollock" and "32 Films About Glenn Gould" as well as filmographies.
Final Thoughts: "Pollock" is a well-acted documentary if it doesn't always focus on its subject quite enough for my taste. Tristar's DVD provides fairly good image quality, although it's not up to their usual standards, and respectable audio quality as well as supplemental features. Recommended.
The Film ***
Video 86/B = (344/400 possible points)
Audio: 86/B = (344/400 possible points)
Extras: 84/B = (252/300 possible points)
Menus: 75/C = (150/200 possible points)
Value: 84/B = (252/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: ***
DVD GRADE: B