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Movie review: Documentary 'Tim's Vermeer' doesn't answer the big questions

Published March 14, 2014 1:44 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The documentary "Tim's Vermeer" tackles an intriguing subject — one man's obsession with another man's art — but could use a little more of the Vegas splash that the filmmakers, the magic team of Penn & Teller, usually employ.

Teller directs this look at one of his partner Penn Jillette's friends, inventor and engineer Tim Jenison, who became fascinated with the paintings of 17th-century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. Specifically, Jenison read into a theory, advanced by artist David Hockney, that Vermeer used optics and an early version of a camera obscura to create super-accurate images. So Jenison, in a slightly crazy and painstaking effort, sets out to paint a Vermeer in a San Antonio warehouse.

His efforts are interesting, though he misses the forest for the trees (or, rather, plants one tree at a time without seeing the forest). Teller's straightforward retelling, shot in glaring video, dutifully shows Jenison's process without exploring the wondrous "why" behind it.

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'Tim's Vermeer'

Opens Friday, March 14, at the Broadway Centre Cinemas; rated PG-13 for some strong language; 80 minutes.