Tim’s Vermeer is the story of Tim Jenison, an incredibly rich and smart man whose obsession with the painter goes a little too far. Teller who is also known for his work on Fantasia, follows Jenison on his quest to discover just how Vermeer can paint scenes of such cinematic prowess.
The story began long ago after one of Tim’s daughters gave him a book detailing the science in art and mystery behind the Dutch master’s paintings. A scientist of sorts himself this sparked an interest after which he began the long hunt for answers to an endless list of questions: Why are there no sketch marks underneath his paintings? How can he recreate his subject with such detail and where does he get off being just so perfect? Throughout the several months of filming these questions are slowly answered, slowly being the operative word.
As part of the Sydney Film Festival a documentary short called David Hockney in the Now: In Six Minutes preceded the feature. As the title suggests it is a six-minute film on the life of renowned Californian via London artist David Hockney. Image of excess and beauty flashed before the audience as quirky tales of the painter’s life were played underneath. This was a smart opening to the main piece as Hockney is reintroduced later down the line making for a quaint touch of nostalgia. Unfortunately it opened the field up for comparison and in the end, eighty minutes compared to six is just too long.
Tim’s Vermeer was shot with specific direction and intertwined old footage subtly. The scenes showcasing numerous amounts of art too were stunning however perhaps not a reflection on the filming rather on the paintings themselves. A lot of the interested lied in the comic asides, which were almost littered on top of the guts of this film. Penn Jillette who you may know as an American bargain hunter does the narration of the film. He is also a good friend of Jenison’s, not surprising considering their shared interest of all things antique and inquisitive and while he keeps the plot chugging along there is a small irritating factor his smokers lungs bring.
There are some very touching moments and interviews you need to see but they could have been shared in half an hour. Furthermore the breakdown of watching someone actually paint a picture over five months was far too long. This is a film not for the faint at heart simple because you might expire before it’s over.
Tim’s Vermeer screened at this year’s Sydney Film Festival.