Ed Harris’ Pollock (2000) The Man Behind Drip Painting

Who was the man behind the term Drip Painting, also part of the so-called Action Painting? Did you ever wonder? Before I watched the movie Pollock I was always awed by his paintings, their power, their originality and how easily we could attribute them to the painter. Now I am infuriated. What an asshole.

Be it as it may, this is an excellent movie, showing the struggles of a painter against the backdrop of New York’s art scene in the 40s. We see all the important people of the time, Peggy Guggenheim, Willem de Kooning, Lee Krasner. During that time, important art mostly came from Europe. If it hadn’t been for de Kooning and Pollock, the American art would never have become as important as it finally did.

If it hadn’t been for Lee Krasner, what would Pollock have become? Nothing, I would say and that is what infuriated me. The guy was a mean alcoholic who went on drinking sprees that lasted days and maybe weeks until he woke up somewhere, anywhere, shivering, sweating and without any specific memory of what had happened. Into this mess enters Lee Krasner, a young g aspiring painter herself, immediately she sees Pollock’s genius and does everything to help him. She moves in with him, takes care of him, phones and invites journalists and galleries and rich people.

After a few years they get married. In order to help him stay sober, she convinces him to move to the country where they seem to be happy at first. It is here that he develops his art and goes from abstract expressionism to action painting and later explores the technique of drip painting for which he is so famous. It is fascinating to watch him paint and Ed Harris does an extremely good job.

Unfortunately Pollock doesn’t realize how blessed he is and after being sober for two years he starts to drink again. Only worse this time. He also begins an affair with a much younger woman. After a day of heavy drinking he drives her and her best friend to a party and crashes the car on the way home. Pollock and the friend die.

We never really get know why he is drinking. He just does. And the more Lee Krasner tries to keep him away from it, the more he drinks. It’s common knowledge that no alcoholic will just change because you threaten to leave him. You have to do it. She never does. It doesn’t mean he would have stopped if she had left but to simply threaten him didn’t change one thing and she suffered as well. Apart from a fascination and admiration for his painting, I have no clue what she saw in him. We don’t see them in many intimate moments. They never seem to talk. The Pollock we see in this movie may have been a great painter but he as a very unlikable, selfish character.

Lucky for Lee Krasner she wasn’t in the car, when he crashed it. She lived another thirty years and did her best work after his death.

I really admired her for saying no to his plea to have a child. She correctly saw that this would leave her in charge of two people. Apart from that most of the time they were broke as it took quite a long time until his art was recognized for what it was.

Pollock is a very esthetic movie with a great score featuring jazz from the 40s, Benny Goodman, Billy Holliday, which makes for great atmosphere. All in all it’s extremely well done, highly watchable and interesting.