Pollock: Collector's Edition (2000)

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Released 1-Apr-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Audio Commentary-Ed Harris
Featurette-Making Of-Pollock: Behind The Scenes (21:50)
Featurette-Charlie Rose Interview with Ed Harris (26:01)
Deleted Scenes-4
Filmographies-Cast
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, Dolby Digital 2.0, not 16x9 (2:21)
Trailer-End Of The Affair; Riding In Cars With Boys
Trailer-Stepmom; Sunshine State
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 118:17
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Ed Harris
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Ed Harris
Marcia Gay Harden
Tom Bower
Jennifer Connelly
Bud Cort
John Heard
Val Kilmer
Robert Knott
David Leary
Amy Madigan
Sally Murphy
Molly Regan
Stephanie Seymour
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Jeff Beal


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Czech
Hindi
Hungarian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian Audio Commentary
Spanish Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    For most Australians, the name Jackson Pollock has little meaning at all. If pushed, about the only thing Australians know about the man is that way back in the 1970's, the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra paid some outrageous sum of money (at least for the time) for a painting called Blue Poles. General popular consensus at the time was that the painting was the biggest load of tripe ever and any kindergarten kid could have produced better at a fraction of the cost (that is, for nothing). Well, that was then and this is now and Blue Poles is probably worth way more than the National Gallery paid for it. Indeed, so proud of the painting is the National Gallery that they use it as part of their home page on the Internet. Mind you, having seen the painting a couple of times, I can attest to it being an interesting work that would hardly qualify as a load of rubbish, even though I really don't understand the painting... Yes, I admit that I am not a great fan of Pollock's work, although I can appreciate that there is some merit in what he did.

    Notwithstanding the general view of that particular painting, and therefore of the painter in general, it has to be said that Jackson Pollock was one of the most original artists of the twentieth century. His stature might not be truly appreciated outside of art circles, but there is little doubt that his techniques moved painting into a completely different direction to that being pursued by modern art at the time. Whilst his initial work was somewhat typical of modern art of the earlier part of the century, his "discovery" of the drip method of painting unlocked his genius as a painter and it is these later works for which he is now best remembered and generally revered. Blue Poles is one of his later works from that era. So exactly what makes the life and times of Jackson Pollock sufficiently interesting to one of the best actors of his generation that it becomes a labour of love for ten years to bring to the silver screen? One could of course be cynical and say 'nothing' - but that is to seriously undervalue the worth of Jackson Pollock and certainly to diminish the worth of one of the more engrossing films I have watched recently.

    There is something worthwhile in bringing the life of Jackson Pollock to the screen - the question is whether it bears repeated viewings or not. Obviously, being a biographical film, there is no plot here but for the life of the man during his biggest creative period, the mid-1930's through to the early 1950's, and his subsequent death. In the process, we learn very much that the man was socially inept, prone to bouts of self-destruction through alcohol abuse, and craving recognition. His social ineptness was partially ameliorated by his friendship with and later marriage to Lee Krasner. His self-destructive tendencies were rarely under control but when they were, he reached his creative peak when the American art world feted him in a manner that he surely enjoyed, particularly under the economic benefit of Peggy Guggenheim. Ultimately however, his flaws were his downfall and when the fickleness of the art world cast him aside from his premier position, his destructive tendencies kicked in with a vengeance and not even Lee Krasner could stop his downward spiral. His legacy, however, will long be remembered in the annals of modern art of the twentieth century.

    As an independent labour of love, what we see on screen is vastly greater than the sum of money available to spend on the film. Made for a relatively modest US$6 million, the film actually managed to gross just about US$8 million at the domestic box office. That in itself was no mean feat, but when you watch the film you can truly appreciate the excellence it displays. As a debutante director, Ed Harris was involved in just about everything to do with the film and as its lead actor he is quite superb. That, however, is not unexpected from one of the great actors of his generation. What was unexpected was the assured nature of his direction - this is a very tight piece of work, progressive but without forcing the pace and lingering when necessary. The other main character is of course Lee Krasner and Marcia Gay Harden picked up an Oscar for her work here. Significantly removed from her work in such cinematic gems as Flubber, this is certainly a performance worthy of that golden statuette. Add into the mix the assured efforts of the likes of Jeffrey Tambor and an almost unrecognisable Amy Madigan and this is a truly wonderful cast that did a d*** fine job in bringing to life the superb screenplay. However, the film is not a stand-out for the performances - where this film shines is in the cinematography, which is quite superb indeed. The way this film has been framed and shot really is extremely evocative and, as Ed Harris mentions more than once in his commentary, combined with the superb lighting adds up to a film that well and truly looks a dozen times more expensive than the money that was spent on it.

    Indeed, it is when viewing films like this that one really does sit back and question why Hollywood seems to be hell-bent on destroying itself through grossly over-budgeted, over-hyped rubbish. This film is superb in just about every way and this is something that I can rarely say about any mainstream American film.

    It might not be the sort of film that I would throw on for pure entertainment, but it has to be said that I found it an engrossing view. The quality of the film oozes out of just about every frame and it is easy to see why the film did so well on the film festival circuit. It is well worthwhile checking this one out. Highly recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Well, this was something of a stunner. Given the independent status of the film and the restricted budget, there were visions of a problematic transfer. Suffice it to say that this is hardly problematic in general, with only the odd indication that this is not quite top drawer.

    The transfer is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    Apart from the odd lapse here and there, some of which Ed Harris mentions in his commentary, this is a rather nice looking transfer. There is very good definition throughout with only those odd lapses, generally of focus, denying it superb status throughout. The excellence continues with the clarity, although it perhaps suffers just once or twice from a little excess in the grain. Shadow detail, as is necessary for a film like this, is excellent and there is nothing lost here - probably as a result of that excellent lighting. Low level noise is not an issue here at all.

    The colour here is quite magnificent and truly vibrant - and it suits the film well. I have no qualms regarding the colour and there is nothing in the way of significant bleed or oversaturation. The only instance of bleed that I noticed was at 97:41, where the red shirt bleeds somewhat obviously. Whilst there are no really bright colours here, there is a very nice contrast in the colours which is perhaps why this transfer does a terrific job of conveying the nature of Jackson Pollock's paintings.

    About the only evidence of an MPEG artefact in the transfer is a slight loss of resolution in movement around 8:17, although this is probably inherent in the source material as opposed to a mastering issue. Film-to-video artefacts are a little more obvious, with some minor cross colouration and some rather obvious moiré artefacting between 62:31 and 62:49, and a few instances of aliasing along the way too - such as at 43:26 and 63:34. The only thing that really detracts from the transfer is that moiré artefacting. A little surprisingly, there are a few film artefacts floating around, and many of these are rather blatant.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD but unfortunately I cannot attest to where the layer change is located. There was no obvious issue during playback to indicate the presence of the layer change.

    There are eight subtitle options for the main feature and I sampled both the English and the English for the Hearing Impaired efforts. Apart from some minor dropping of words, there is nothing awry with these efforts. Very good indeed.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are four soundtracks on the DVD, being Dolby Digital 5.1 efforts in English, Italian and Spanish, with an English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack. I listened to both the English Dolby Digital 5.1 and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks.

    The audio transfer is very effective and very, very acceptable even if there is not a huge amount of requirement for the full 5.1 soundtrack format. There are certainly no issues with clarity here and within the context of the film everything is carried very well. There does not appear to be any problem with audio sync in the transfer.

    The original music comes from Jeff Beal, and is yet another of the joys of the film. Indeed, this is one of those rare occasions where I really would have loved an isolated music score. However, upon reflection, this might have been a bit of overkill for the film is not exactly Verbosity Incorporated for much of the time. The music is most effectively used during the painting scenes, when of course there is little dialogue, and really adds enormously to the impact of what is going on. Really good stuff indeed.

    There is really nothing much to say about the audio. It is simple, effective and without any blemish. Whilst it is a six channel effort, there is little in the way of dynamic use of the sound as the film simply does not warrant it. Nice and clear, with some solid presence to the sound.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    A rather decent collection of extras rounds out this package.

Menu

    Nice stuff which look the goods and are 16x9 enhanced throughout.

Dolby Digital Trailer - City

    It has been a long time since I reviewed a Columbia TriStar release and even longer since I actually bought one. One reason that I don't buy Columbia TriStar DVDs is because of the presence of this trailer. Is there any way that we can get rid of this pestilence that ceased to be of any value about four thousand DVDs ago? Please, can we forget this accursed piece of tripe, Columbia Tristar? I swear if you get rid of it I will buy your DVDs again.

Audio Commentary - Ed Harris (Director/Producer/Actor/everything)

    Now this was one of the rare occasions where I actually looked forward to an audio commentary. One of the best actors of the age talking about a ten year labour of love? Surely this had to be worthwhile listening to? Well it was, but it was not quite as engrossing as I was expecting. At times this commentary is very deliberate, bordering on boring, but this is a style of commentary that suits the film well enough. The man himself actually fills in plenty of stuff about the film, especially what worked and what did not work. Whilst I am glad that I listened to it, I am equally sure that I shall not return to it again in the future (but then again that describes most extras to be found on DVDs in my view).

Featurette - Making Of (21:50)

    A slight disappointment in terms of quality, as the picture often has a pixelated look to it or at least seems to suffer from low level noise. There is also a bit of moiré artefacting going on at times, with plenty of aliasing too - especially in the paintings. However, the content is well worthwhile suffering these problems for - and the resemblance between Ed Harris and Jackson Pollock is quite uncanny. Presented in a full frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced: the sound is Dolby Digital 2.0.

Featurette - Charlie Rose interview with Ed Harris (26:01)

    When you watch this you realise that the approach taken for the audio commentary is the way Ed Harris seems to approach everything - a little deliberate, tempered enthusiasm to the fore. I actually found this to be quite interesting, which was a surprise since I generally have a less than stellar opinion regarding the quality of American television, and especially their interview programs (which are usually more show than substance). This is actually a reasonable interview even if it does tend to be a bit "dumbed down" in the usual American tradition. Presented of course in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced, the sound is Dolby Digital 2.0. Nothing much to complain about here.

Deleted Scenes - (4)

    The four scenes are The Cedar Bar (0:43), Lee's Painting (1:44), Infinity at my Fingertips (0:50) and Stray Dogs (1:55). You will have to guess where they fit into the actual flow of the film and each has been removed for obvious reasons - mainly that they add little to the film. The presentation is uniformly mediocre, as befitting stuff that was tossed aside early in the piece. They come in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, they are not 16x9 enhanced and they have Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Filmographies - Cast

    It's been a while since I saw these on a DVD - and in this case they are only selected filmographies anyway for the major players. Hardly compelling stuff...

Theatrical Trailer (2:21)

    I suppose you could quibble with the "theatrical trailer" description since it is presented in a Full Frame format. Have not been to too many cinemas in the past twenty years where the Full Frame format has been the format of choice... Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, it is of course not 16x9 enhanced. Nothing memorable.

Other Trailers (4)

    Or more correctly - advertisements. The selection of films is Riding In Cars With Boys (2:19, 2.35:1, Dolby Digital 5.1, 16x9 enhanced), End Of The Affair (1:38, 1.33:1, Dolby Digital 5.1, not 16x9 enhanced), Stepmom (2:22, 2.35:1, Dolby Digital 5.1, 16x9 enhanced) and Sunshine State (2:08, 1.85:1, Dolby Digital 2.0, not 16x9 enhanced). If the aim of the exercise is to encourage me to buy the product, it fails miserably. Acceptable enough quality.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There would seem to be only minor differences between the Region 1 and Region 4 versions of the DVD. These seem to relate to language options as usual, plus some differences in the available trailers. The Region 1 also has a Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack rather than a Dolby Digital 5.1, but as indicated above this is hardly a great difference. There is nothing persuasive to favour one over the other, so call this even.

Summary

    This is a film that I was looking forward to seeing and therefore the opportunity to review the film was taken with alacrity. I have to say that it is not the sort of film that I would watch for entertainment, but overall it is a terrific film that is realised in the best tradition of a labour of love. This really is the sort of film that you should check out at least once. Highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Monday, April 07, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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Comments (Add)
$39.95 for a single DVD is a bit much. - MichaelCPE REPLY POSTED