Last night, I saw the documentary Tim's Vermeer, a film from of all people magicians Penn and Teller. (It was directed by Teller and produced by Penn Jillette. It follows a friend of theirs, Tim Jenisen, who’s a very successful inventor and technician from Texas -- in fact, a two-time Emmy winner for innovations -- who sets out to prove a theory by David Hockney about how artist Johannes Vermeer painted with such vibrant realism, most-especially for the time, a mystery since the Dutch master left no notes, by re-creating a famous Vermeer work -- even though he's never painted in his life. (That effort isn't limited to just artwork, but is down to personally reconstructing the very conditions, as well -- all the miniscule conditions, building most everything from scratch, from grinding the paint to building a work room. Despite never having done any of those things before, either. The theory overlaps lines of general research from British art historian Philip Steadman. Both Hockney and Steadman are in the film quite a bit.
The film runs 80 minutes, though to be clear parts of it are definitely slow -- one friend who saw the documentary earlier thought it could have been trimmed and been a great episode of Nova. For me, however, I loved the pacing, and it got a wonderful reception at the Writers Guild screening. Half the fun of the film, I think -- indeed part of the point -- is watching the painstaking, near-obsessive, borderline idiotic effort this guy makes. And you can only get that with the unrelenting, minute detail.
Here's the very entertaining trailer.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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