Teller, from the duo Penn & Teller and their 8-season TV show BULLSHIT!, has decided to get behind the camera! As soon as I read that fact, I needed to see this film.
I have never seen a doco quite like this one. It is beautifully shot, which is what I was looking forward to initially: the silent illusionist Teller behind a camera. You can see his personality in how he often uses focus and depth of field in an almost playful way, while also using time-lapse photography when needed. Copperfield is a giant fan of film and I’m guessing these guys are too, and through Teller’s direction it certainly shows. It also makes sense that, after eight seasons of non-fiction television, that his first subject be non-fiction. I hope to see something creative behind his camera; it would certainly make for an interesting view at the least.
If you have seen their show BULLSHIT, and if you haven’t you live under a bigger rock than I do, you might expect their usual over-the-top silliness. In fact, Penn Jillette is SO restrained both in interviews and while narrating that he is essentially a different character to the one he normally plays. What is also great is that the skeptical attitude of Penn & Teller is still there. They aren’t calling every second guest an arsehole though, sorry guys, but that’s the point. It is restrained. However, this skeptical attitude that the duo is renowned for is put to the test in this doco; one unlike any I have seen before or since.
The works of Vermeer are unveiled, and we get a glimpse into, perhaps, a scientific explanation for the incredible level of detail in lighting that Vermeer was able to accomplish. The use of narration is used well as we see how he could have done it, how this theory that Vermeer used an invention of sorts evolved, and how his work differs greatly from other Dutch painters of the time. Of course entrepreneur/inventor Tim attempts to paint a Vermeer through his final invention, too much interest from art experts. As the film drifted through its short length, what transpires is far more amazing than any episode of BULLSHIT!
The genius of this Tim fella just has to be seen to be believed. His mission is to prove that Vermeer – 350 years ago – was using some sort of optics or lens rig to paint. The human eye simply can not see the variations of light like a camera or lens can – the exact sort of light variations that appear in all Vermeer’s later work. Through trial and error, what Tim explores and eventually achieves is simply mind-blowing, unprecedented, and changed the entire way I view art in general. I’ll repeat myself, this has to be seen to believe. A stunning documentary, the best I have seen.
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