Review: An Inventor Learns to Paint, But Is It Art? Exploring ‘Tim’s Vermeer’

Penn & Teller are generally known for their magic tricks and prankish energy, but “Tim’s Vermeer” — a documentary directed by Teller and produced by Penn Jillette — stands apart from the rest of their oeuvre. A spirited look at the quest of an eccentric entrepreneur intent on uncovering the cryptic technique of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, “Tim’s Vermeer” plays less like the sort of exposé of trickery one might expect of Penn & Teller and instead focuses on the nature of desiring answers to unsolvable mysteries.

At its center is middle aged technologist Tim Jenison, the owner of a successful computer graphics company obsessed with Vermeer’s art. Having read David Hockney’s controversial tome “Secret Knowledge,” which argues that Vermeer used a camera obscura to trace a projection of real images as a means of explaining the painter’s extraordinary attentiveness to the behavior of light, Jenison can’t stop thinking about ways to prove the theory. As Jillette explains in a…

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