Tim’s Vermeer

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One of the great things about Penn & Teller, is that despite their insistence they never have been just carny trash. Be that Teller’s directing (when is he bringing these productions over here?) or Penn’s libertarian bollocks and punditry (love his Sunday School podcast). The latter has even dabbled previously in film, co-directing the blunderbuss of obscenity that is The Aristocrats.

Tim Jenison is a (supposedly) and inventor and friend of the pair. As a very rich man, he has time on his hands to pursue his interests. Piqued by some stuff in a book by Hockney about Johannes Vermeer having to have used the technology of the day to create his paintings. It’s the only real explanation of the leap that he makes in realism. Jenison is musing on this one day in the bath and has a, literal, eureka moment. He comes up with a theory as to how it could be done. So, he decides to set about recreating Vermeer’s studio (originally in Delft) in New Mexico and to use his theory to “paint a Vermeer”. P&T decided they had to document this. The result is Tim’s Vermeer.

We get the background to the obsession. And, follow Jenison across Europe doing his research; taking his measurements. We’re with him as he hires a north-facing warehouse and starts removing walls and building structures to recreate exactly that 17th century light. Having pots thrown and rugs woven in the same style and techniques. We’re with him as it doesn’t work. Re-adjustments have to be made. And, then, the long, long job of painting the damn thing. In fact, the main body of this film is watching a man sit at a desk, miserable and painting. It’s completely riveting.

This is, of course, helped by Jenison always coming across as a man seeking something. The inventor side of him. Not some dilettante with time on his hands.

Of course, the involvement of pseudo-carny trash here, does lead to some wolf-cry theories. Surely, this can’t be true. It’s just too amazing. Apparently, it is. And all the more fantastic as a result.


Written by Tony Kiernan

26 January 2014 at 8:25 am

Posted in Film

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