Review: Tim's Vermeer
The ‘Vermeer’ in the title of this auspicious, spellbinding documentary is of course renowned Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer who painted during the 17thcentury. The ‘Tim,’ on the other hand, is Tim Jenison, an incredibly successful inventor and technologist who resembles George Lucas and has a lot free time, money, and dedication.
His mind ever wandering and full of curiosity, Tim posits that Vermeer did not paint simply by eye and skill – something else had to have aided him. So, monomaniacal as he is, Tim sets out to see if he can not only figure out how Vermeer painted, but if he can duplicate a process that seems to be more scientific than based on innate talent.
While Tim is a fascinating and likeable figure, eliciting laughs and scoffs in the same breath due to his determined spirit, it is the duo of Penn & Teller, illusionists and celebrities this time taking up producing and directing duties respectively, which make this documentary especially astounding.
Penn and Teller are indeed debunkers at heart, having made an illustrious career out of both creating magic and unraveling it, out of a questioning and thoughtful spirit. Penn and Tim have been friends for some time, and it seems like the perfect pairing of very smart people who seek answers to difficult questions.
The two are subtle, and are both very well aware that this story is mind-boggling in its own right. It’s not about getting extraordinary access, or about undermining or attacking – it’s simply a curious investigation. It’s far more a film about the crazed single-mindedness of a brilliant mind than a debunking of a famous painter.
It is delicate and decided – the film and Tim’s painting process. It is painstaking too, as roughly five years of work is boiled down in a spectacular 90 minutes. The journey is surprising, and at some points simply unbelievable with a finish to this mesmerizing film that is near-perfect.