Top positive review
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Shining new light on Vermeer, literally... great documentary!
on March 6, 2014
"Tim's Vermeer" (2013 release; 80 min.) brings the story of Tim Jenison, an inventor who has amassed a small fortune over his life time and now has become fascinated (obsessed may be the better word) with the 17th century Dutch master painter Johannes Vermeer. Tim examines in particular Vermeer's painting "The Music Lesson", which has an astonishing amount of details in it. Tim eventually comes to the conclusion that Vermeer used a variety of optical devices (mirrors, camera obscura, lenses), and to test his theory, he decides to recreate "The Music Lesson" from scratch, even though he is not a skilled painter by any means. To tell you more would ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: first, this documentary is made (and narrated) by Penn, he of Penn & Teller. Turns out that Penn and Tim have known each other for many years, and it's easy to see why this particular topic would have peaked Penn's interest enough to make it into a documentary. Second, the feeling of the documentary is pretty much one of a crime caper, in that we get to find out in detail how Tim goes about testing his various theories and his recreation of "The Music Lesson". Third, if you don't care for art, in particular painting, save yourself the trouble and catch another movie, as obviously the entire 'raison d'être' of the documentary is the making of a painting. At some point during his recreation of the painting, Tim gives an exhausted look towards the camera and sighs "it's like watching paint dry", much to the delight of the theater's crowd, which exploded in laughter. Last but not least, there is a nice soundtrack to this movie, composed by Conrad Pope and I've made a mental note to myself to check that out as well. (Bob Dylan's "When I Paint My Masterpiece" plays over the documentary's closing credits, an obvious but nice choice.)
I saw this documentary recently at the Landmark E Street Cinema in Washington DC, and the early evening screening I saw this at was absolutely PACKED, which I think is great news. Facts always trump fiction, reason why I love a good documentary more than anything. If you are interested in art and you marvel at how Vermeer might've created some of his best work, you will absolutely love this. "Tim's Vermeer" is absolutely worth checking out, be it in the theater or on DVD. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!