Saturday, January 19, 2008

Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock? (DVD)

Today's movie had the unpromising title Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock? It turned out to be a documentary about an elderly female truck driver who bought a painting from a thrift store for $5 and her efforts to convince the art world that she has a genuine Jackson Pollock.

The documentary is straightforward enough, avoiding any sly innuendo or in-your-face opinions. It just recounts her story, the testimony of forensic experts who verified the painting, the opinions of a master forger - and the art world's rejection of the picture because it has no "provenance" (a written history of where it has been since the 1940s).

Although it appears to take no sides, it works as a high-impact revelation of the class structure in the US. It's pretty plain that the millionaire art dealers and the Harvard educated art experts are NOT going to buy a painting from a truck driver who lives in a trailer, for reasons which are nothing at all to do with the picture and are entirely concerned with trailer living vs. millionairing. One of the final scenes, where the owner sits in a Veterans of Foreign Wars bar drinking Bud and eating KFC with her working class friends as her son plays a C&W ballad based on the saga of her painting, is a Studs Terkel-like moment in capturing a class in a few words and images.

Sorry, lady, the film says. You're not one of us. Get lost and take your matching-fingerprints-in-the-paint and matching-paint-flakes "forensic proof" with you. Who are you going to believe, the man wearing a thousand-dollar suit or your own lying eyes?

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