Tim's Vermeer - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Tim's Vermeer Reviews

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July 15, 2016
Stunning ! Loved it.
½ June 5, 2016
If you love art and painting you will find this man's obsession fascinating.
Super Reviewer
May 29, 2016
Did world famous artist Vermeer use technology to create his masterpieces? A fanciful consideration taken very seriously by a tech wunderkind and recorded by Penn & Teller to the enlightenment of all mankind. A documentary that'll force you to reconsider just what it is you think art is. Excellent stuff.
May 19, 2016
Best documentary ever made
½ May 13, 2016
Interesting story, amazing project, incredible dedication. And we learn something from all this too.
April 25, 2016
What fascinated me the most was not the technique which Vermeer used to create his masterpieces (that mystery is solved early in the game) but the extreme lengths that Tim Jenison goes to prove the point.
½ April 9, 2016
When one thinks of documentary films, one doesn't think of Penn and Teller, the pair of magicians who have made a name for themselves in the world of magic. Penn Jillette, the "talking" part of the team is known for hard-hitting TV shows that debunk, and being an atheist, often invited to debate with religious people on talk shows. When I learned that Penn and Teller were behind this documentary film, I was at first skeptical about the tone the film would take. Penn's style is hard-hitting and in your face--not the sort of thing that lends itself to discussions of Vermeer or art history. I have to say, though, I was pleasantly surprised by this film, which plays almost like a 90 minute expose of a magic trick, in this case one by Dutch master, Johann Vermeer.

The focus of the documentary is Tim Jenison, a sort of Renaissance man known in the world of video technology, who has an obsession with the 17th century painter. He has an idea that Vermeer used a simple lens and mirror system to paint his masterpieces. The film then follows him on his ten year journey, during which time he meets David Hockney, visits Vermeer's hometown, and also gets to examine, for thirty minutes, one of the Queen's Vermeers at Buckingham palace.

In terms of film making technique, there's not a lot to comment on one way or the other; it's well edited, the music is good, and the story points follow logically. The only nagging thing for me, though is I would have liked to have seen more art experts discuss Tim's project, either in terms of why it was reasonable or why it wasn't. We hear from David Hockney who recently wrote a book about lens systems and painting, but he is a proponent of Tim's method. Without countering opinions, the film feels lopsided. But, this is from the point of view that the film is about art history or rediscovering a method, and the film is about much more than that.

I think the real point of the film is watching Tim follow his dream for ten years, (a point mentioned in many reviews of this film) and not whether he possibly found how Vermeer made some of his works. I say "possibly" because we don't have any records of Vermeer's process, other than the paintings themselves, which Hockney says are documents that give clues to the process, a point that comes up during Tim's work when he discovers some interesting parallels in his and Vermeer's work. These discoveries seem awfully convincing. Again, I would have liked to have seen some art historians discuss the final painting and at least tentatively give some opinions on the matter. Without experiencing different opinions on this project, we are left wondering. I think that's fine in theory, however unless one has a background in art history, and Vermeer in particular, it's hard to know. The finished painting looks just like a Vermeer, but who am I to judge whether the method used was the same as Vermeer's. As I said, on some level the film isn't about that question, but it'd sure be nice to know. I keep getting pulled in two different directions. However, the title of the film is "Tim's Vermeer," and not "Vermeer's Magic Rediscovered."

This leads to an interesting question. If one doesn't know how something was made, but finds a way to duplicate the original, is the duplicate the original method? In other words, say someone shows me a box. I can hear a cricket inside the box--or at least I think it's a cricket--it sounds like one. When I shake it, I hear something move and the sound stops. If I leave it alone for a while the sound starts again--just like a real cricket. I then decide to duplicate this, however, I don;t have a cricket so I use a small sound player that turns off if it is moved too much. If I present the original box and my version to someone, it is not possible for him or her to tell them apart without opening the boxes. Does this mean that my box, with the player, is the "same" as the original? This is the position one finds oneself in when thinking about Tim's finished painting. Did he find the method or not? It sure looks like it, but who am I to judge? We may never know, unless documentation surfaces that sheds light on the subject, or a thorough examination of Vermeer's works are done in light of Tim's method.

One of Vermeer's paintings shows a painter painting a woman. The painter has their back to us, so it is not possible to tell their identity--it could be anyone. The painter is using a traditional painting method--a palette and arm rest; he is not using Tim's lens system. So, if Vermeer used Tim's method, he didn't expose this in the painting. On another note, many other paintings produced at the time show the same sort of masterly technique and we know that they didn't use Tim's method. Franz Hals, Jan de Brey, Gerrit Van Honthorst, and Bartholemeus Van der Heslt didn't use a mirror and lens, and produced works just as "photo realistic" as Vermeer.

Watching Tim produce his "Vermeer" is an amazing and inspiring process, and Tim should certainly feel proud. Hopefully, it will inspire the right people to do more research on Vermeer with Tim's method in mind. Some critics have mentioned that the film glorified a guy with a bunch of money and time on his hands to pursue his dream. Maybe, but I think there's some magic in watching Tim. He's a dreamer. I think we need more dreamers, whether rich or not.

In the end, though, there is a part of me that wishes Tim hadn't found this method. It is the same part of me that doesn't want to know how Copperfield made the State of Liberty or the Lear Jet vanish. Vermeer's paintings are a kind of magic, and knowing a possible method for how they were made, takes away that magic. Some people say that knowing how a trick is done doesn't take away from the beauty and artistry. I happen to disagree; I don't want to see the modus operandi. I don't want to know it was "just" a lens and a shaving mirror. As Tim shows in the movie, making his version is a very tedious and time consuming task--it took him a week to paint a carpet, an effort that looks marvelous when it's finished. In the end, though one has to ask themselves how much of Vermeer's genius was just hard work and dedication. Edison said genius was one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Call me a dreamer but I prefer to think of genius as magic coming from the gods in the form of an effortless wind that pushes an artist's soul into unchartered territory. The point was made in the film that art critics didn't want to discuss the lens and mirror system because they felt it was "cheating," an accusation that Tim feels is childish. Maybe the critics are right--maybe it is cheating. Writing in the Guardian, Jonathan Jones gives a harsh review of the film, "Neither he nor the filmmakers show any sense of the greatness of great art. The film is a depressing attempt to reduce genius to a trick. On the commentary, Penn keeps crassly saying Vermeer looks "photographic" and "cinematic", and the film purportedly proves that all the artist's magic lay in the use of an optical machine." Hard to argue with that.

When it's all said and done, this is a great story and I look forward to seeing more documentary films of this sort from Penn and Teller. I prefer films that inspire me to "do something" after the film; research, think, or write. "Tim's Vermeer" certainly does that.
March 23, 2016
A great concept realized. Hats off to Tim, you are an artist. I know of a document that proves it...
March 1, 2016
nice small movie. loved the soundtrack.
February 21, 2016
It shows a five year dedication of a man, and his knowledge that he shares with the whole world about an equally great man that lived 350 years ago.
January 21, 2016
I am writing this review purely to say "thank you" to all involved in the making of this documentary. 80 of the best spent minutes of my time recently! To Tim Jenison - What a visionary to solve this puzzle and the generosity to share it with the world. To Penn and Teller - For seeing Tim's project as the incredibly fascinating subject it is and taking the time to document it and share it with us. I know nothing at all about art or invention, but that is not necessary to appreciate the brilliance and patience of this project. An incredible lesson as well for this "want it in an instant" world of the pleasure, benefits and wonderment of taking the time to think and create. Excellent, first class documentary!!
January 12, 2016
this film literally took my breath away - several times. a documentary about Tim Jenison (of CGI, animation, VFX fame) searching for an answer to Johannes Vermeer's cinematic-esque and seemingly impossible to recreate by hand paintings and his attempt to recreate 'The Piano Lesson' with his two hands that, up to his attempt, had painted exactly 3 oil paintings prior. the commitment and diligence in painting with the method he discovers (a combination of camera obscura, various optics, and mirrors) blows you away at both his efforts and the reality that this very well may have been Vermeer's system. Tim's stoic persona and creative editing bring a very nice touch (thank you Penn & Teller) and humor to what must have been totally agonizing at times. definitely worth the money to catch in theaters, but will be just as impactful on a smaller screen as well.
½ December 26, 2015
An interesting--sometimes--little idea about the work of Vermeer. I certainly will take a second look at his art after this documentary
September 19, 2015
El Tim del título (quien admite no ser pintor) llevará a cabo un experimento que parece una locura: reproducir el cuadro "La Lección de Música", de Johannes Vermeer. Su objetivo: probar que el pintor holandés se sirvió de artilugios, como lentes y cámaras obscuras, para realizarlo. El resultado, en este fascinante documental sobre la fusión de arte y tecnología, es impresionante.
½ September 1, 2015
This documentary was absolutely fascinating to watch. Tim Jenison's combination of intellect and gumption is wildly impressive. The amount of detail he put into researching, preparing and tweaking to create the perfect periodical environment to work in with minimal outside help almost trumped the actual painting itself.

Makes your neglected DIY or "Honey Do" list pale in comparison.... GET ON IT!
August 3, 2015
I caught this on HBO late one night, I had heard of the film and it sounded interesting so I turned it on. and for the next 90 minutes I was entertained and informed on this certain subject of art. a very profound, pleasant, calm little film perfect for a little time-wasted night.
July 26, 2015
Amazing! Incredible... Must watch if you have any interest in art, fraud, history, the mind and vision.
July 24, 2015
A very soft spoken documentary of Tim Jensen, a tinkerer and inventor with no artistic training, who decides to paint a Vermeer. He tries to prove that the qualities of gradual light shifts in Jan Vermeer's paintings could have been created with optics available in the 17th century.
½ July 24, 2015
Works more as a "How its made" episode then a documentary.
Grade: B-
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