Thursday, September 5, 2013

TIFF 2013: Tim's Vermeer (Fabulous)

And we're off! Tonight was opening night at TIFF 2013 and my first film of the festival: Tim's Vermeer. The initial hook for me was that the film is directed by Teller of Penn and Teller; Penn also appears in the film, which is about his friend Tim Jenison's insane quest to paint a painting like those of Johannes Vermeer, a Dutch 17th-century painter whose realistic use of light was remarkable. Speculation that Vermeer "cheated" by using some sort of optical device led Jenison to try to figure out how he might do the same. The catch is that Jenison is not a painter.

I'm not a big art buff, but the film is as much about science and technology as art. Jenison turns out to be the guy behind Lightwave, a 3D animation system that traveled in some of the same circles as the Maya software I worked on for 14 years before my reincarnation.

The film was fabulous. It shows an obsessed man with incredible patience, and somehow manages to communicate the intense tedium of his project without the film ever becoming boring at all.

Penn and Teller came up from Vegas for the screening. Penn Jillette spoke briefly before the fim, with Teller by his side, silent as he always is. After the film, they returned to the stage, along with Tim Jenison himself, to discuss the film and answer questions, and remarkably, Teller spoke! It's always a treat to hear those who made a film talk about it at the screenings, but this one was really pretty special  for me. I've been a big fan of Penn & Teller since I first saw them perform in San Francisco over 20 years ago. This is a very different piece of work from anything else I've seen them do, more serious, but still quite remarkable.

I highly recommend the film. There is another TIFF screening tomorrow at 1:30, and as I write this Thursday at 10pm, there are still tickets available at

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