Tim’s Vermeer is simultaneously an intensely personal look at a guy–the titular Tim, Tim Jenison–and also not an intensely personal look at him. Jenison sums up his hypothesis in the first few minutes of the film–what if Vermeer (and some of his contemporaries) were less hippy dippy artists (my term) and more inventors? They were using cutting edge technology to make what we now consider fine art, but at the time they were creating the form.
The documentary, which barely runs seventy minutes, doesn’t really discuss any specific friction caused by Jenison’s venture. It mentions general friction at the idea, but I think I remember from art history classes the idea of Vermeer using science to accomplish his paintings. What Jenison does himself could be handled far more like Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote, only director Teller and co-writer (and narrator) Penn Jillette don’t go that route. Because it’s not actually a personal look at the guy or even a questioning one about the cultural connotations of his experiment.
The film has three sections–the introduction, the building of the set, then the painting. The de facto fourth section is the abbreviated reaction to the final product. The fourth section could be the whole picture. But the film’s not grandiosely ambitious, it just wants to show this guy’s experience. Only not too personally.
Technically, Vermeer is decent. Teller has fine composition. Lousy editing from Patrick Sheffield though. Conrad Pope’s music is awesome.
It’s cool stuff.
Directed by Teller; written by Penn Jillette and Teller; director of photography, Shane F. Kelly; edited by Patrick Sheffield; music by Conrad Pope; produced by Jillette and Farley Ziegler; released by Sony Pictures Classics.