Love and Death on Long Island

Review by Michael Jacobson

Director:  Teresa Griffiths
Audio:  Dolby Digital Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Home Vision Entertainment
Features:  None
Length:  46 Minutes
Release Date:  February 19, 2002

Film **1/2

Is it a legitimate complaint to say that the documentary Love and Death on Long Island didn’t bring me any closer to legendary American artist Jackson Pollock?  Maybe not.  After all, not even Ed Harris’ terrific film Pollock could achieve that.  Pollock was a brooding, distant, self-absorbed fellow, so much so that I don’t think if I could have lived next door to him for a while that I’d have gotten any closer to the man.

We are left, therefore, with impressions of his life as spotted and sketchy as one of his famed paintings.  Life magazine once posed the question:  was he the greatest living American artist?  There are still answers being shouted back to that simple question many decades later—some positive, some negative—but few could argue that Pollock at least got people talking about art in 20th century America more than any of his contemporaries did.

Some of the treats of this film include footage of Pollock, both painting and relaxing (as much as he could relax).  Somber and sullen, often with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, his mannerism expressed the genius that his brushes proclaimed.  There is also an old clip of his wife Lee Krasner, a reading from the police report made after his fatal car accident, and of course, plenty of paintings to look at.

But none of it really brings us any closer to Pollock, the man, even if it lends a bit of appreciation to Pollock, the artist.  He remains a distant and enigmatic figure, which makes the documentary, though well-crafted, a bit of a disappointment.

Sometimes in art, you have to step back in order to appreciate the total effect.  Love and Death tries to get us in for a closer look, but unfortunately, the drips and splotches of Pollock’s life don’t seem to spell out much under scrutiny.

Video ***

This is a quality full frame presentation from HVe, which combines recent and older footage confidently.  Colors are generally very good, and Pollock’s paintings all look terrific in full digital glory.  Older stretches of film show a bit more aging effects, but that’s to be expected.  Overall, there are no complaints.

Audio **

This simple audio mix is serviceable, making no demands on your system since the program is entirely dialogue oriented.  All words come across cleanly and clearly with no distracting noise…there’s not much else to speak about.

Features (zero stars)



Jackson Pollock remains a much discussed figure decades after his untimely death.  His works are still being praised and dismissed in great numbers, but most significantly, they are remembered.  Love and Death on Long Island is an honorable attempt to bring us closer to the enigmatic artist, but that task has proven an uneasy one time and time again.  It might be worth a look…if you don’t expect to get too close to the man, you won’t be disappointed.