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'Tim's Vermeer' review: An entertaining, mind-blowing art revelation

Tim's Vermeer


Hey, art lovers and historians, get ready to have your mind blown by “Tim’s Vermeer,” the new documentary produced by Penn Jillette and directed by Teller.

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 28: (L-R) Farley Ziegler, Penn Jillette, Tim Jenison and Teller attend the 'Tim's Vermeer' special screening at Museum of Modern Art on January 28, 2014 in New York City.
Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Wowing festival audiences at Telluride, Toronto and New York, the film was also shortlisted for Best Documentary Oscar (although it didn’t make the final five), and this past week even made Entertainment Weekly’s “The Must List.” Now, “Tim’s Vermeer” bows to a bigger stage as it opens in Los Angeles (and other select cities) on January 31.

As a documentary, the premise is simple enough, Tim Jenison, the visionary digital desktop inventor behind DigiView, DigiPaint, and Video Toaster had long been fascinated by the Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer (“Girl with a Pearl Earring”). He was obsessed with how Vermeer’s intricate paintings realistically conveyed color and light in a precise, almost digital manner.

Was it possible then, that this great Master used some kind of technology (albeit that from the 17th century) to help create his art works? Jenison begins a five-year journey to investigate Vermeer’s process. Jenison learns the language and visits Vermeer’s hometown of Delft and examines natural light, colors, paints, architecture, camera obscura optics, mirrors, as well as interviews artists, like David Hockney, and art historian Professor Philip Steadman (who wrote the 2001 controversial “Vermeer’s Camera,” which shook up the art world).

Penn explains on camera that he’s been friends with Jenison for years, but had no idea of his obsession for Vermeer. He becomes equally captivated with Jenison’s theories, and soon Penn and his magician partner Teller are on the road to document Jenison’s quest.

Naturally since Penn & Teller are involved, one wonders if the film might utilize slight of hand tricks. But rest assured; Jenison shows every painstaking, artistic step of discovery as he and his helpers attempt to recreate Vermeer’s acclaimed “The Music Lesson” both as an actual set and painting.

And what does Jenison conclude? Well, the revelation is startling, possibly controversial, and visually exciting. Frankly, if you’re an art lover, the findings are simply too good to miss. And as a film lover, you’ll equally enjoy “Tim’s Vermeer” if only to follow one man’s entertaining obsession to discover the truth.

“Tim’s Vermeer” is 80 minutes, Rated PG-13 and opens in Los Angeles on January 31 at the Landmark Theatres -- which has a special event Q&A session with Penn & Teller, and Tim Jenison and producer Farley Ziegler on Friday, January 31 at the 6:00 p.m. screening; and also at the ArcLight Cinemas Hollywood -- which also has a special event Q&A session with Penn, Teller, Jenison, and Ziegler on Friday, January 31 at the 7:15p.m. screening.

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