Pollock (2000)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Ed Harris, Marica Gay Harden, Val Kilmer, Tom Bower
Extras: Commentary Track, Documentary, Charlie Rose Interview, Deleted Scenes, Theatrical

We have come to know Ed Harris as a prolific character actor who is able to tackle even the most difficult parts with seemingly natural ease. After years in front of the camera, the actor has recently also produced and directed his first movie, while also taking on the lead part in it. The film is "Pollock," a look at the life of abstract painter Jackson Pollock, a man whose emotional state was as bizarre and unpredictable as his paintings. Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment is now serving up a DVD of the film, complete with a number of interesting extras, so that hopefully even more people learn about this fascinating character from the world of modern arts.

Jackson Pollock was controversial painter, to the outside world as much as in private. Just as his art never gave away its true meaning at first sight, neither did he, and behind the calm appearance was a ferocious man, driven by depression, isolation and self-doubt. "Pollock" takes viewers on a journey to learn more about the man, who was the first real American modern painter. The film explores stages of his life and how he had to escape into his own world in order to conjure up the magic that made his paintings so unique. We observe him dance around the canvas on the floor in front of him, dripping color – seemingly at random – onto the material to create a piece of art that would eventually become bigger than he himself. Unlike some other abstract artists however, Pollock never looked at abstract painting as a mockery to see how far you could go to fool people into elevating it beyond what it actually is. To Pollock, painting was liberating himself of his own demons.

Ed Harris had been toiling with the idea to make this movie for a long time and it wasn’t by accident that "Pollock" marked his directorial debut. Carefully staged, beautifully choreographed and atmospherically lensed, "Pollock" is a film full of art, about the arts. Despite its dark moments, "Pollock" is full of rich moments and light-hearted scenes that help us understand how his own weaknesses made Pollock the man he was, and that the increased pressure of success and scrutiny in the public eye drove him further and further into his own world where only painting would help him find relief.

"Pollock" may not be a film for everyone, but it is an excellent study in human psychology, as well as a nice excursion into modern arts that always remains tangible. Harris managed to condense the material to a film that is very approachable and no matter whether you are familiar with Jackson Pollock or his work, or not, the film will offer you insight into a world that is firmly locked away to most of us. The world were creative energy quite literally explodes out of a human being.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment is presenting "Pollock" in an <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> presentation on this DVD. The image is very clear and clean, without notable blemishes, making it very enjoyable to behold. With its atmospheric imagery, the film features a variety of brightly lit outdoor scenes, as well as succumbingly dark indoors shots, giving the video transfer the entire gamut of image content to work with. The DVD presentation excels by creating an image that perfectly reproduces all these settings and lighting conditions flawlessly. Colors are always strong and without oversaturation. They are very natural looking, giving the film additional authenticity, and making the best of Lisa Rinzler’s beautiful cinematography. Blacks are very deep creating a brooding atmosphere when needed, while highlights are nicely delineated without bleeding. Shadows always hold good detail and never break up. The compression is equally impressive and no signs of compression artifacting are evident in the presentation.

The DVD comes with two audio tracks – a <$DS,Dolby Surround> track and a 5.0 channel <$DD,Dolby Digital> track, both in English. The tracks are both very well produced, exhibiting a remarkable clarity that is immediately noticeable. The soundtrack for "Pollock" is oftentimes airy, creating a stark counterpoint to the painter’s intense mindset. The track has a wide frequency response and all sonic information is contained within the 5.0 mix so that even without a dedicated LFE channel in the mix, the audio is full-bodied and rich at all times. In the high end of the sonic spectrum, the audio is also very clear, creating a natural-sounding presentation without deficiencies or distortion.

The DVD contains a <$commentary,commentary track> by director/actor Ed Harris in which he goes into more detail about the film’s production. Many things that he could not immediately express within the film itself are touched upon here and viewers will certainly have an even better understanding of Jackson Pollock as a human being after listening to this track. But also from a pure production standpoint, Harris is offering a lot of insightful information.

A 20-minute "Making Of" featurette will take you behind the scenes of the film’s production. It is a very well-crafted featurette that is full of interesting details and information. Going away from the typical promo pieces, this film really shows us how the film was made. How did Harris approach the characters and pick his cast and crew, how did he fake the painting scenes, or did he? Many elements that make this film what it is, are explained here, giving viewers a glimpse behind the scenes, without being as lengthy as the <$commentary,commentary track> for example.

Also of quite some interested is the interview provided on this disc in which Ed Harris appeared on the Charlie Rose show, discussing the film. A 25-minute piece, it offers plenty of information and details, to a large degree showing how Ed Harris worked on the character to bring Jackson Pollock to life on the screen.

Four deleted scenes, taken form work prints and hence in fairly poor shape, are also on the disc, rounding out the release together with selected cast biographies and trailers.

"Pollock" is a great achievement and a great film – a true ode to the painter. Bringing a snapshot form the life of this modern painter to the screen was no easy task and Ed Harris has created an artistic and poetic film that allows us to witness some of the genius and the madness that seems to come with it. Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has turned the whole thing into a great DVD with a stellar feature presentation and exceedingly valuable supplements, leaving you very little choice. If you are in any way interested in the arts or the human dichotomy of creative genius and madness, this is a film you have to check out!