Autumn 2014 Documentary series
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at 7:00pm
Directed by Teller
Screenplay by Penn Jillette and Teller
Starring Tim Jenison, Penn Jillette, and Martin Mull
Rated NR ·
English and Dutch
For centuries, the paintings of Dutch master Johannes Vermeer have left viewers awestricken. Art historians describe his radiant style, far ahead of his contemporaries, as “painting with light.” What was his secret?
Naturally, that mystery would draw the attention of Penn & Teller, the magic duo with a penchant for exposing other people’s tricks. In Tim’s Vermeer, they document the obsession of their friend Tim Jenison, a successful inventor of computer graphics equipment, who sets out to prove a theory. Tim’s mission: to paint with his own hands a replica of Vermeer’s The Music Lesson—a tableau of a woman and her teacher at a harpsichord—which normally hangs in Buckingham Palace out of public view.
Tim is working off hunches posited in the books Secret Knowledge by David Hockney and Vermeer’s Camera by Philip Steadman, which suggest that Vermeer may have worked with a camera obscura to project an image onto a canvas. Where their theories fall short, Tim advances ideas of his own. With Teller as director and Penn appearing on camera, they follow Tim’s quest for over a year. In his painstaking efforts to stay authentic, Tim grinds pigments and crafts lenses using seventeenth-century technology, and transforms a Texas garage into a replica of Vermeer’s Delft room. By the time he is ready to paint, enormous amounts of time, energy and resources are at stake, with the cameras rolling on what comes next.
“As with Six by Sondheim, Tim’s Vermeer works at capturing on film how artists work their miracles. And it will have you, long after the credits fade, puzzling out questions of invention, creativity, science, talent, painstaking craft, and the magic that comes of putting all that together.” (Bob Mondello, NPR)
“The result is just about the most fun you can have while learning, partly because it strips away any tangents beyond the task at hand, offering a lean, 80-minute account of how this crazy guy erected his own Everest and then proceeded to climb it.” (Peter Debruge, Variety)