The film explores the influences that combined to inspire Pollock's unique approach to painting: from the open spaces of his western childhood to the neon bustle of Manhattan, from an early interest in Native American art to a fascination with Mexican muralists and French surrealism. Interviews with many of Pollock's contemporaries round out the portrait. His wife Lee Krasner, fellow artists, and critics offer their own impressions of a complex and deeply troubled man. A conversation with his sister-in-law is especially revealing, since she refuses to accept the Pollock myth and insists that he was a manipulative phony.
Also included are many examples--both still photographs and film--of the artist at work. These images of Pollock crouched over his canvas, cigarette between his lips, almost dancing as he drips and flicks the paint, changed the public perception of artists, and they have become almost as iconic as the art whose creation they record. Unfortunately the paintings themselves lose much of their power on screen, and they seem more drab, less infused with energy than they do when seen in a gallery. A few canvasses (notably The Deep, an extraordinary late work) do convey some of the artist's genius, but only a face-to-face encounter can convey the true impact of his paintings. Like those paintings, Jackson Pollock resists explanation, but this documentary provides a fascinating introduction to a great figure of 20th-century art. --Simon Leake