Greg Gutfeld Reviews Penn & Teller’s Documentary ‘Finishing School’Posted: February 24, 2014
Greg Gutfeld writes: I never get around to seeing movies because I rarely get around to doing anything. This is an important point–as a man with no hobbies and a knack for leaving things unfinished–it’s a big deal for me to finally catch Penn & Teller‘s documentary, Tim’s Vermeer.
It’s an action film in which the only action is painting. And that action beats most other action films, as it’s actually designed to prove a point: to set out on an absurd experiment (in terms of workload) and see it to its ridiculous but satisfying completion. The movie is about a job.
“Jenison embarks on a decade-long experiment in which he tries to paint a Vermeer, using theories he believed Vermeer might have employed. Over these years, he builds an exact set replica of one of Vermeer’s more complicated paintings…”
But it is also really about Penn Jillette‘s old friend, Tim Jenison, an inventor out of Texas who’s congenially obsessed with solving one beguiling question: how did the guy who painted “Girl with a Pearl Earring” paint “Girl with a Pearl Earring?”
Johannes Vermeer was a 17th century Dutch artist who painted works of art so realistically that they’re about as close as you can get to photographs without demanding a nose-picking brat to “say cheese.”
Some in the art world believe Vermeer achieved his mesmerizing work with technology available at the time–a device called a camera obscura–and a mix of lenses and mirrors. In a sense he was photographing with paint.
Vermeer kept no records of his craft, his paintings are his “documents,” and so little is known of the man… all you need for a pretty cool adventure. Jenison embarks on a decade-long experiment in which he tries to paint a Vermeer, using theories he believed Vermeer might have employed. Over these years, he builds an exact set replica of one of Vermeer’s more complicated paintings–building chairs, crafting window moldings, dressing mannequins, and employing a daughter to stand rigidly as models, when necessary. It’s a lot of work, leaving my movie companion shaking her head in disbelief.
And then when the actual painting of this recreated set begins, it gets even more unbelievable–not the theory being tested, mind you–but that any person would have the stamina to follow through with such an absurd mission. Over many, many days, Jenison recreates every minuscule detail of the painting (including the tiniest dots of a Persian rug). It’s like asking your brain to climb Everest in your garage….
- Tim’s Vermeer (fox5sandiego.com)
- Review: Teller’s ‘Tim’s Vermeer’ paints fascinating picture (latimes.com)
- “Tim’s Vermeer” – an incredible journey in art exploration and discovery (drinkswithfilms.com)
- Tim’s Vermeer (eastbayexpress.com)
- Tim’s Vermeer, review (telegraph.co.uk)
- ‘Tim’s Vermeer’ finds Penn & Teller switching off their irreverence (metro.us)
- DIFF 2013: Tim’s Vermeer (2013) (moeatthemovies.com)
- Mixing the geek with the artistic in ‘Tim’s Vermeer’ (sfexaminer.com)
- Controversial art theory in ‘Tim’s Vermeer’ (metronews.ca)