This Academy Award-nominated documentary feature from Teller, with production assistance and an onscreen appearance from his partner-in-crime Penn Jillette, explores the eternal curiosity of inventor Tim Jenison, the owner of a painting by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer, who takes it upon himself to uncover the truth about the master’s technical genius. Vermeer is known for producing stunningly rendered, near photo-realistic works at a time when such efforts would seemingly have been highly improbable, and he left no traces behind to explain his genius.
So, Jenison, with Teller and Jillette in tow, embarks on an experiment to not only reveal the secrets of Vermeer’s astonishing technique, but also reproduce a “Vermeer” of his own, using a similar approach and technology that would have been available to Vermeer during his lifetime. The studied investigation, enlivened with an ingenuity almost gone from everyday life, cracks the case, and, oddly enough, may remind a select few of another Jillette documentary production, The Aristocrats, which drew informed attention to the ultimate insider’s joke — although Tim’s Vermeer masterfully arrives minus the lewd humor. Hidden in plain sight is a question about the nature of genius versus technical precision that may not even matter. You decide. (PG-13) Grade: A