Love and Death [1975]

Although it begins with the police report of his death in a 1956 car accident, this BBC effort quickly backtracks to the birth of Jackson Pollock's fame seven years earlier with the memorable Life magazine question: "Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?" While the answer is still hotly debated, the fact that he became the most famous painter of that time is not. This 46-minute documentary concentrates on the intense glare of celebrity and its effect on Pollock's work and life. Because he allowed documentary makers unprecedented access to his process, this film is loaded with images of Pollock at work on his physically active--and therefore dramatically engaging--style of drip painting. His own voiceovers as well as those of his wife and champion, fellow painter Lee Krasner, are intercut with more recent interviews with poets, friends, biographers, and his lover, Ruth Kligman, who survived the deadly crash. Joining his old acquaintances is Ed Harris, director and star of the 1999 film Pollock, who speaks to the paralyzing combination of self-doubt and alcoholism that proved this artist's undoing. --Kimberly Heinrichs

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