March 02, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

The casting of Ed Harris as Jackson Pollock is so right as to seem inevitable: the virile baldness, the stare of silent challenge, the way that Harris’ Pollock wields a cigarette like a throwaway extension of his will. The painting scenes are everything you hope for, yet Pollock, which Harris also directed, is ultimately a quasi-satisfying, half-realized vision. The movie offers some juicy insider glimpses of the New York art world — Amy Madigan has a china-rattling zest as Peggy Guggenheim — but once Pollock settles into the private war between creativity and alcohol that would destroy him, the contours of his demons remain not so much enigmatic as blankly out of reach. B

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