Blu-ray: Tim’s Vermeer

STUDIO: Sony | DIRECTOR: Teller
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 6/10/2014 | PRICE: Blu-ray/DVD Combo $40.99
BONUSES: commentary, 1.5 hours of deleted/extended/alternate scenes, Q&A from the Toronto International Film Festival
SPECS: PG-13 | 80 min. | Documentary | 1.78:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and French subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

 

The very entertaining documentary Tim’s Vermeer follows Tim Jenison, an inventor with a computer and optical bent, who attempts to uncover the tools and techniques used by the great 17th Century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer in creating his intensely detailed paintings. In his ambitious quest for the answer, Jenison travels across the world, consulting art historians and optical experts, and setting up optical experiments in his own controlled laboratory. This leads to his attempt to recreate one of Vermeer’s masterpieces, “The Music Lesson,” by using the kind of clever optical “aids” that he believes Vermeer used himself to achieve his photo-realistic paintings.

Tim's VermeerThough it reads like a dry art history lesson, Tim’s Vermeer is served well by its makers, anarchic magicians Penn & Teller, both of whom produced the film, with Penn (a friend of Jenison) offering on-and-off-screen narration and Teller directing. The film examines the debate on art and technology—is it truly art if there is technology involved in its creation?—while keeping its sense of humor and a lively pace.

The first half of the movie follows Jenison as he develops his ideas about the optical devices Vermeer might have used  (polished glass and other types of lenses) in creating his art some 150 years before the invention of photography. The second half focuses primarily on Jenison painting his own Vermeer canvass, a months-long project that finds the inventor (he admits he ain’t no painter!) emotionally and physically drained by the time of his final brush-stroke. Jenison is ultimately satisfied with the work he’s done—his “Music Lesson” looks really, really good!—and he truly earns the accompaniment of Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece” over the end credit crawl.

The Blu-ray is packed with bonus features—hours of’em! Most impressive is the collection of deleted, extended and alternate scenes, enough of them to practically make a second movie. Best is Penn & Teller’s “tirade” against the Queen outside of the Buckingham Palace in protest of Jenison not being allowed inside to view the real-life Vermeer that so obsesses him. Also notable is a 45-minute segment in which Jenison talks art history (and Vermeer, in particular) with comedian Martin Mull, who’s a respectable painter in his own right.

The commentary by Jenison, Penn, Teller and producer Farley Ziegler is also worth taking a dip into. The commentators are all together as they speak and they seem to be having a great time as they talk about the production, offering up a few fun factoids along the way.

Producer Ziegler and her three collaborators are also together during a lively Q&A taped at last year’s Toronto Film Festival and moderated by Thom Powers.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.