Pollocks: Philip Kerr on a Biopic That's as Drippy as Its Subject. (Film)

By Kerr, Philip | New Statesman (1996), May 20, 2002 | Go to article overview

Pollocks: Philip Kerr on a Biopic That's as Drippy as Its Subject. (Film)


Kerr, Philip, New Statesman (1996)


This isn't Welsh. No, this is action writing. As a writer for the new look New Statesman, I've been striving for an unstudied, spontaneous freshness of statement. It doesn't matter how the letters are put down so long as something is said. Because, as Jackson Pollock once said, "Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement." The statement arrived at is, at the same time, the record of the creating process itself, which arrives at something, rather than aiming intentionally. With that in mind, I wrote this review against the wall of my studio. I wanted to look directly at the paper, in order that I might see the landscape of my words unfold in the same way that I see a card covered with strange letters when having my eyes tested. The expression of my whole being is contained in that first sentence; it was directed, not as you might think by the accident of my leaning on a computer keyboard, but by mysterious inward forces. There was nothing accidental about it. I thought of using this new action writin g for the whole review; but then my editor would probably have sacked me. Did I say I was drunk when I wrote it? I think that helped.

Jackson Pollock seems to have spent most of his life drunk. He was hospitalised on a number of occasions. He had more nervous breakdowns than Mick Jagger. He shouted a lot at his no less rebarbative wife, Lee Krasner. He also had sex with Peggy Guggenheim, but this was hardly remarkable; Peggy Guggenheim had sex with nearly everyone, and many of the daubs she bought for her hatbox on Park Avenue look like nothing more than expensive sexual trophies. Pollock smashed a lot of furniture, too. If only he had thought to keep the pieces, I dare say little Damien or perhaps little Tracey might have been able to find a profitable use for them. These and the car he crashed, killing himself and a young female pass enger. If all of these bits -- broken furniture, crashed car, dead girl -- wouldn't make an interesting Turner Prize-winning installation, then I'm Charles Saatchi.

Pollock stars, and is directed by, Ed Harris. I suppose it's just possible poor Ed is thick enough to admire Pollock's work. But I think it's more likely that Harris chose the project because he had looked in the mirror often enough to be aware that his own robust muscularity, square jaw and male pattern baldness lend him a similarity to the man Time magazine once dubbed Jack the Dripper. …

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