Filmmakers, actors, comedians, and professional magicians Penn Jillette and Teller (The Aristocrats, Bullshit) have returned to the big screen for yet another unique altogether different movie experience. This time around, they have set out to film an experiment that has (and will most assuredly continue to) cause quite a bit of controversy in the art community. By going into the history (or lack thereof) behind beloved and critically-acclaimed Dutch painter, Johannes Vermeer, at the behest of their friend, inventor Tim Jenison, they have set out to find out just how he created his masterpieces.
Through a series of "real time" interviews and documentations, the experiments (in all of their ups and downs) lead the audience on a thrill ride of the imagination. We are treated to the ideas behind the mixture of technology, photography, and painting. The inventor who identifies himself as "not a painter" has set out to create his very own "Vermeer," by using optics, patience, and some funding from his Hollywood friends. What happens next is so fascinating that even someone with little or not art history knowledge will be captivated.
The heart of the film is the main "character" of Tim Jenison, but the added bonus of the professionalism of Teller and the great narration from Penn make an altogether enjoyable watch. The experiment never fails to impress. The candid interviews never seem boring or scripted. And for the most part, the written explanations and back story provided makes the movie a challenging yet rewarding viewing for every audience member ranging from the layman to the expert. It will be very interesting to see just how many ripples this creates in the art community in the years to come. And it will be even more interesting to see what subject Penn & Teller tackle next. This one, by far, is their smartest.