directed by Teller
by Walter Chaw Teller, of magician/illusionist/debunking/bullshitting duo Penn & Teller, makes his directorial debut with a documentary that, even at a fleet 79 minutes, feels a little long. For a while, though, Tim's Vermeer paints a compelling picture of inventor (fellow illusionist and 3-D designer) Tim Jenison as he indulges his peculiar obsession with proving that Dutch master Johannes Vermeer used some kind of camera obscura optical trickery to achieve his photo-realistic style. The case seems ironclad by the end as Jenison recreates the entire room depicted in Vermeer's "The Music Room," sets up his little gizmo-whatsit, then sits down, the consummate non-painter, to produce a Xerox-accurate replica of Vermeer's masterpiece. Various talking heads weigh in, day titles depict the passage of time, and by the end it's clear that the topic isn't so much technology's role in art (there's a proximate reality problem presented by the film that pushes it near to a place of science-fiction) as it is Jenison's apparent illness, his meticulousness becoming obsessive and even, at times, frightening, possibly to the point of self-destruction. For the experiment to work, see, Jenison must be unschooled in every required discipline of his project: architecture, costume design, construction, and finally painting. It makes the definitive last image suddenly ambiguous: how do we measure success, and what price is too steep?