But Pollock's mood can change in a flash. While he never drinks while he's painting, he does drink excessively at other times. Then a vicious madness overcomes him, and he rails at other artists, collectors and critics who don't see his genius. He even lashes out at the one person whose faith in him never wavers -- his wife and fellow painter, Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden). When the episode subsides, Pollock is both remorseful and abjectly depressed.
He may be suffering from bipolar disorder exacerbated by alcoholism, but such a diagnosis is not mentioned in the film. Nevertheless, Pollock's personality flip/flops and self-destructive impulses lend Pollock a sorrowful, bittersweet quality, more so because we know his rages dramatically shortened his life. But when competition with other artists is not tormenting him, Pollock becomes a gentle man, loving and comfortable with Lee, himself and their simple country life.
Greenberg says Pollock's work represents the first new stylistic movement in painting since cubism. But when Krasner sees the new work he's created in his country studio, she simply, elegantly says, "You've done it! You've cracked it wide open." However, some call him "Jack the Dripper."
The last laugh belongs to the artist, thanks to the science of fractals discovered some 25 years after Pollock's action paintings were made. According to UO Associate Professor Richard P. Taylor, Pollock's action paintings are full of the irregular geometric patterns found in nature called fractals. In the film, Pollack calls himself "a force of nature," which turns out to be true.
Taylor's dual background in science (he's a physicist) and in art theory played into the moment he first saw an original Pollock. "I'll bet that's got a fractal pattern," he said. Later he confirmed his informed intuition that Pollock "used the same techniques" that fractals demonstrate. Fractals are repeated shapes within an object -- not identical shapes but shapes similar to the shape of the whole.
(In Richard Hill's story in last week's Oregonian Science section, Hill illustrated what is meant by Taylor's statement that fractals are "statistically self-similar" in nature: "... a fern is a fractal because each frond is composed of subfronds, each a miniature but not necessarily identical copy of the whole," Hill wrote.)
To test Pollock's work for fractals, Taylor and his research associates scanned into their computers 20 paintings made between 1943 and 1952. They compared the scanned images with 5,000,000 patterns. Not only were Pollock's images fractals, but the richness of the pattern 4 what's called the fractal character -- increased as the painter refined his technique. Put in numbers, the fractal dimension grew in complexity from 1.1 to 1.72 over the nine years studied.
Pollock wasn't mimicking nature, but he was creating these patterns on purpose. It's as if the artist discovered, or intuited patterns that are pleasing to the human eye and then repeated those patterns in his paintings. Taylor called this a fundamental level of knowing. We know about these patterns because we evolved in nature, which is full of fractals -- in clouds, trees, the human brain itself.
"When we look at a beautiful scene," Taylor said, "we don't have to intellectualize the experience. A fundamental attraction is set in motion in our brain. We are drawn to these patterns." Likewise, Taylor suggested, we don't have to intellectualize about Pollock's work but can just enjoy it.
Initially he was worried that science would strip bare Pollock's work, Taylor said, but instead "it has shown how amazing his work is through authenticating the specific ways that he dripped the paint on the canvas." Taylor is also asked to use his work to detect fake Pollocks. He said it's easy; they don't contain fractals.
I love it when science and art come together. Taylor's work makes me love Pollock's painting even more. When I first saw an original Pollock I liked what I saw, but I didn't have any idea why I liked it. Taylor said Pollock himself was confused about whether he should regard his new work as painting anymore. Biographers say he asked Krasner, "Is this a painting?" Surely she responded, you're damn right it is!
Catch this fascinating film with incredible, intense (and Academy Award-nominated) performances by Harris and Harden. It opens Friday, March 16, at the Bijou. Very highly recommended.
Exit Wounds: Steven Seagal, DMX and Tom Arnold mix it up in this action flick about rogue cops. Ho hum. Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak (Romeo Must Die). R. Cinemark. Cinema World.
Legend of Drunken Master (2000): First released as Drunken Master 2 in 1995, this re-release of a Jackie Chan Hong Kong action flick tells about a Kung-Fu master who teaches his son (Chan) how to fight with ballet-like movements, the style called Drunken Master. Fabulous ending. R. Movies 12.
Miss Congeniality: Comedy stars FBI agent Sandra Bullock posing as a beauty contestant, Miss New Jersey. Directed by Donald Petrie, it also stars Benjamin Bratt, Michael Caine and William Shatner. PG-13. Movies 12.
Pollock: Ed Harris makes his directorial debut in this biopic about the great American abstract expressionist painter, Jackson Pollock, played to near perfection by Harris. Marcia Gay Harden plays his wife, painter Lee Krasner. Explosive, excellent film. Harris and Harden picked up Academy Award nominees. R. Bijou. See review.
Sheltering Sky, The (1990): Bernardo Bertolucci's gorgeous Sahara desert epic stars Debra Winger and John Malkovich as Manhattan sophisticates whose marriage falls apart while they're traveling through poverty-stricken North Africa in 1947. With Campbell Scott, Timothy Spall. Based on Paul Bowles' novel, writer appears as a narrator in the film. Vincent Storaro's cinematography is unforgettable. R. Lorane Film Society at 6:30 in Lorane Grange Hall, Lorane, OR (686-9999).
Before Night Falls: Artist/director Julian Schnabel's film combines recent Cuban socio-political history with one artist's search for the freedom to express his vision. As poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas, Javier Bardem's flawless performance earned an Academy Award nomination. With Olivier Martinez, Andrea Di Stefano, Johnny Depp and Sean Penn. Very highly recommended. R. Bijou. See review.
Best in Show: Christopher Guest directs and stars in this faux docu about dog-lovers who want to win at national kennel club show. Michael Hitchcock, Parker Posey, Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara plus ensemble cast.. Very funny movie. PG-13. Movies 12. See review.
Bounce: Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck star Don Roos's romantic drama. Affleck plays a man who gives up his seat on a flight that crashes, and Paltrow is the widow of the man who took his place. Highly recommended. PG-13. Movies 12.
Cast Away: Academy Award nominee Tom Hanks learns to survive when his plane crashes and he washes up on a remote tropical island. Helen Hunt is the girlfriend he left behind. Intimate direction by Robert Zemeckis, a lean script by William Broyles Jr., and an edgy performance by Hanks. Highly recommended. PG-13. Cinemark. See review.
Chocolat: Lasse Hallström directs this best picture nominee, which stars Juliette Binoche (best actress nom), Johnny Depp and Judi Dench (supporting actress nom). It's about the scandal a sexy, free spirited woman causes in a small town when she opens a chocolate shop. Other noms: best adapted screenplay, original song, PG-13. Cinemark. See review.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Ang Lee's cinematic masterpiece, romantic fantasy set in ancient China garnered 10 Academy Award nominations: best picture, best director, best foreign film, best adapted screenplay, art direction, cinematography, original score, song, costumes and film editing. Stars Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun Fat, Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen. Superlative! PG-13. Bijou. Cinemark. See review.
Down to Earth: Chris Rock gets sent to Heaven by mistake, but then he comes back in the body of a recently murdered Manhattan mogul. Regina King, Mark Addy, Frankie Faison and Chazz Palminteri also star. PG-13. Cinemark.
Dracula 2000: Wes Craven's modernization of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel stars Gerard Butler, Johnny Lee Miller, Christopher Plummer and Jennifer Esposito. R. Movies 12.
Dude, Where Is my Car?: Danny Leiner's one-joke comedy is about a couple of dudes who get too drunk to remember where they parked the car. PG-13. Movies 12.
Family Man: Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) directs Nic Cage, Téa Leoni and Don Cheadle in this fantasy of an unmarried investment banker who sees what his life could have been had he married his only love. PG-13. Movies 12.
Fifteen Minutes: Robert De Niro is a homicide detective and Edward Burns an arson investigator in John Herzfeld's thriller. They're looking for killers who sell their videotaped snuff footage to reality TV. Could happen. R. Cinemark. Cinema World.
Finding Forester: Gus Van Sant film is badly written by Portlander Mike Rich. Sean Connery plays a reclusive novelist and 16-year old newcomer Robert Brown plays the super-bright teen who brings him back to the world. With Anna Paquin and Busta Rhymes. PG-13. Movies 12. See review.
Get Over It: Romantic teen comedy stars Kirsten Dunst and Ben Foster (Liberty Heights). PG-13. Cinema World. Cinemark.
Hannibal: Ridley Scott chronicles Hannibal Lector's inevitable return in this gruesome sequel that stars Julianne Moore as Clarice Starling and Anthony Hopkins as the infamous cannibal. Script by David Mamet, Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List). Bloodsoaked, creepy movie earns its R-rating. R. Cinemark. See review.
Heartbreaker: Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt play mother/daughter con artists, and Gene Hackman's their mark. David Mirkin (Romy and Micheles' High School Reunion) directs. PG-13. Sneak 7 pm Saturday March 17. Cinemark.
Meet the Parents: Ben Stiller plays the unfortunate prospective son-in-law to Robert Di Niro's overly protective father, with Teri Polo and Blythe Danner as the engaged daughter and her mother. Directed by Jay Roach. Nominated for best original song. PG-13. Movies 12.
Mexican, The: Comic road movie stars Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and James Gandolfini in a stupid mob caper south of the border. R. Cinema World. Cinemark. See review.
O Brother, Where Art Thou?: Ethan and Joel Coen's feel-good Depression-era comedy and homage to old timey music is their best ever. This Odyssey stars George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson as chain-gang escapees in Mississippi. With Holly Hunter, Charles Durning, John Goodman. Highest recommendation. Nominated for best adapted screenplay and cinematography. PG-13. Cinema World. See review.
One Hundred Two Dalmatians: Cruella De Vil (Glenn Close) is back, and this time she's got a partner in crime, Jean Pierre Le Pelt (Gerard Depardieu). Live action comedy from Disney. G. Movies 12.
Recess: School's Out: Animated Disney film's about a plot to create permanent winter. Hard to overcome what The NY Times review calls its "visual deficit." G. Cinemark.
Rugrats in Paris: While his dad works on EuroReptarland, a new amusement park, Tommy Pickles leads the gang on adventures in Paris to solve the mysteries of life. G. Movies 12.
Save the Last Dance for Me: Talented white girl from small town (Julia Stiles) enrolls in an inner city high school in New York where she falls for a popularAfrican American boy (Sean Patrick Thomas) who also loves to dance. PG-13. Cinemark.
See Spot Run: David Arquette plays a mailman who teams up with a crime-fighting canine in this comedy. Cinema World. Cinemark.
Snatch: Writer, director Guy Ritchie's (Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels) comedy features an ensemble cast in the wild tale of a diamond heist gone sideways. It's a rollicking ride through London's gangster world starring Benicio Del Toro (Traffic), Brad Pitt, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones, Jason Statham and Stephen Graham. R. Late night Bijou. See review at online archives.
Sweet November: Romantic drama about workaholic exec (Keanu Reeves) who falls in love with a unique woman (Charlize Theron). The NY Times says they "dwell in a woozy cinematic fairy-tale land of disembodied emotion and improbable dialogue." PG-13. Cinemark.
Three Thousand Miles to Graceland: Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell arrive in Vegas decked out like Elvis, intending to rob the casino, but plans go wrong. Demian Lichenstein directs; David Arquette, Christian Slater also star. The NY Times calls it a "bloated spectacle" and cautions about its "wall-to-wall violence." R. Cinemark.
Traffic: Steven Soderbergh's acclaimed film looks at the failures of America's war on drugs with an all-star cast that includes Michael Douglas, Benicio Del Toro, Don Cheadle, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Erica Christensen. Brilliant directing, excellent script and dynamite performances make this the best film of 2000. Nominated for best picture, director, supporting actor Del Toro, adapted screenplay and film editing. R. Cinemark. Cinema World. See review.
Unbreakable: M. Night Shyamalan's film stars Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, who put themselves on the line in powerfully understated roles. Beautifully directed, very highly recommended movie. PG-13. Movies 12. See review.
Vertical Limit: Action adventure tale of a former mountain climber (Chris
O'Donnell) who has to save a sibling (Robin Tunney) trapped at 26,000 feet. Directed
by Martin Campbell. PG-13. Movies 12.
Dancer in the Dark: A sensation at Cannes 2000, this musical drama by Lars Von Trier (Breaking the Waves ) was either loved or hated by American critics and audiences. But one thing most agreed on is the mesmerizing performance by Icelandic pop star, Björk. R. See review.
Lucky Numbers: Starring John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow, this lotto numbers gambling drama is directed by Nora Ephron. The stars plot a way to rig the game. R.
Remember the Titans: Football movie based on the true story of a 1971 Virginia high school falling apart from racial conflict until a black coach (Denzel Washington) from out of town pulls them together. Directed by Boaz Yakin, it also stars Will Patton and Kip Pardue. PG.
Tao of Steve, The: The main reason to see this little film by Jenniphr Goodman isn't named Steve. His name's Dex, and he's played by Donal Logue with such laconic self-confidence and self-effacing good nature that you believe he can get any woman he wants. Until he meets Syd, played by Greer Goodman, that is. R. See review.
Turn It Up: Urban hip-hop drama is directed by Robert Adetuyi and stars Prakazrel Michel, Ja Rule, Vondie Curtis Hall, Jason Stratham and Tamala Jones. R.
Next week: Charlie's Angels, Girlfight, Once in the Life, Red Planet
and Rugrats in Paris.