One of the most pleasant surprises of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival is Tim’s Vermeer. Made my legendary magicians and bullshit busters Penn & Teller the film is about the remarkable achievement of their friend Tim Jenison. A professional computer/optics expert and amateur inventor, Jenison became fascinated with the work of the great Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer whose ground-breakingly realistic work has confounded art critics and historians for centuries. Controversial recent theories have suggested that Vermeer used primitive camera lenses to essentially paint photographs and with a deep background in video technology, Jenison was not only qualified to see how that could be true, but also had a theory of how it was done.
Armed with the resources, dedication, eccentricity, and free time necessary to pull it off, Jenison dedicated a year of his life to proving the theory by recreating Vermeer’s studio, crafting a practical device Vermeer might have used to pull off the work, and meticulously recreated a classic painting using only tools and resources available in the 17th century. The only catch was that he’d never painted before, but with the invention he’d devised that didn’t matter. So Penn & Teller filmed the entire journey and presented the Tim’s journey in a manner as clever, funny, insightful, and moving as any of their finest work. Collider got a chance to chat with Penn, Teller, and Jenison at TIFF, delving into the making of their latest project, their underrated 1989 film Penn & Teller Get Killed, and, oddly, the relationship between Martin Mull and Jimi Hendrix. Hit the jump for the full chat.