When Penn & Teller turn their hand to documentary filmmaking, we know it's going to be something playful. Indeed, this is a hugely entertaining film, gripping us with a fascinating story that has a lot to say about the interplay between art and technology. It's also a witty exploration of one of history's most iconic painters.
Tim Jenison is a successful inventor in Austin, Texas. A nerd with too much money and time on his hands, he becomes fascinated with the 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, whose paintings have an uncanny photographic quality to them. Experts like David Hockney have long wondered how Vermeer achieved this realism, suggesting that optic lenses were probably involved. So Tim sets out to find the secret, developing a lens and a set of mirrors to recreate one of Vermeer's most complex paintings, The Music Lesson. And even though he has no artistic skill, his result may change art history forever.
It also forces us to reconsider how we define artistry, because clearly technology is another tool an artist uses. Penn & Teller hold our interest by peeling away the layers and letting us see Vermeer's magic (they also hint that the film itself might be a trick). The fact is that Vermeer created photorealistic images 150 years before the advent of photography, and no one has previously been able to explain how he did it. But whatever process he used also proves his artistic skills, simply because it involves so much creative thinking.
Continue reading: Tim's Vermeer Review
NewTek co-founder and visual imaging software inventor Tim Jenison has spent his career perfecting the art of graphic imagery but, rather than hoping to create more realistic graphics than has ever been created before, he spends most of his time marvelling at the genius of 17th century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer, whose most famous painting - 'The Girl With A Pearl Earring' - continues to baffle all who look upon it with its immense detail that should've pre-dated any photography. Though Jenison is not a painter, he embarks on a mission to achieve that level of artistic genius as he goes about attempting to put together his very own Vermeer using the same techniques as Vermeer himself with a little help from ultra-famous modern artists and professors in the fields of visual perception, architecture and photography.
'Tim's Vermeer' is an art documentary by Primetime Emmy nominated illusionist duo Penn & Teller. Directed by Teller and produced by Penn Jillette ('Penn & Teller: Bullshit!'), the film features appearances from painter David Hockney, comedian Martin Mull, Professor Philip Steadman (author of 'Vermeer's Camera: Uncovering the Truth Behind the Masterpieces') and Professor of Neuroscience Colin Blakemore. Nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards and at the Satellite Awards, 'Tim's Vermeer' will be released in the UK on January 17th 2014.
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