As evidenced by the title and cover artwork, Who The #$&% is Jackson Pollock? (2006) isn't your standard art-related documentary...not by a long shot. Directed by long-time actor, writer and producer Harry Moses, this odyssey of paint splatters, profanity and perseverance clearly answers its own question...at least for our protagonist, Teri Horton. She's a former truck driver who discovered a large, unusual painting at a local thrift shop roughly 15 years ago, promptly buying it for $5 as a gag gift. After a friend suggested it resembled a Jackson Pollock painting---whom she had never heard of, hence the title---she began a crusade to get her impulse buy certified as the genuine article.
The estimated worth, providing it was the real deal? $50,000,000.
Of course, this would be no easy task: the painting was unsigned, but its dubious origins would prove to be an even greater roadblock. Pollock's work had been snapped up by collectors worldwide at an increasing rate since his untimely 1956 death, ensuring that stray paintings were virtually needles in very large haystacks. Nonetheless, one fact remained: Teri Horton owned a painting that had many Pollock experts and art historians on the fence. Some dismissed her immediately, citing the lack of a provenance (a documented history of ownership) as the painting's fatal flaw.
To her credit, though, a number of positive clues have helped her case. The leading proponent of her painting's authenticity has been Peter Paul Biro, a Canadian fine art restorer and "art forensic investigator". During his study of Horton's find, he's uncovered several hints that point in her favor, including a fingerprint that matches ones found in Pollock's studio and a verified authentic painting, not to mention striking similarities in the paint types and colors used. His argument is that such evidence is, in fact, enough to consider it a Pollock original. Certain members of the art world, however, disagree: they need documented proof of the painting's history before they'll budge.
More than anything, though, Who The #$&% is Jackson Pollock? reminds us that class division is still alive and well. Horton projects a cussin', Norman Rockwell likin', down-to-earth demeanor that doesn't sit well with the wine-and-cheese world, giving the film a real "us vs. them" mentality that doesn't always sit right. Still, the film balances everything else quite well: we get to learn a bit about Horton's past, Pollock's life and some admittedly clever detective work. All things considered, it's an interesting character study that you can't help but get caught up in. Though the ending doesn't provide us with all the answers, it's a fascinating case that's worth following up on.
Presented on DVD by New Line Entertainment, Who The #$&% is Jackson Pollock? plays well on the small screen. Oddly enough, the title phrase---quipped by Horton during an interview---is oddly edited out during this PG-13 film, but the nasty ol' cuss word remains intact on the subtitles. Most viewers will find the lack of extras disappointing, but this appealing documentary is still a solid effort on all counts. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for widescreen displays, Who The #$&% is Jackson Pollock? looks very good from start to finish. Colors are generally bold and accurate, black levels appear solid and no major digital problems are on display. The included Dolby Digital 5.1 mix sounds crisp and clear, defying the film's low-budget roots. Dialogue is clean and easy to understand, never fighting for attention with background noise or the film's soundtrack. Optional English and French subtitles have been included during the main feature.
Whether you believe Teri Horton's painting is authentic or not, there's no doubt that Who The #$&% is Jackson Pollock? is one of 2006's most interesting and well-executed documentaries. Director Harry Moses does a good job of keeping everything focused, presenting the information gradually to keep viewers guessing---and though the "good vs. evil" element occasionally feels a bit cheap, the finished product is entertaining and heartfelt. New Line's DVD package pairs the main feature with a solid technical presentation, but the lack of bonus material---along with the film's somewhat open ending, not to mention the high price tag---limits the "blind buy appeal" quite a bit. Rent It instead.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.