‘Tim’s Vermeer’ is a debunker’s delight

Tim Jenison adjusts a wig on Graham Toms, who modeled for Jenison’s Vermeer re-creation.
Tim Jenison adjusts a wig on Graham Toms, who modeled for Jenison’s Vermeer re-creation.Shane f. kelly/SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

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Tim’s Vermeer

Some movies are great because of their artistry; “Tim’s Vermeer” achieves greatness — OK, semi-greatness — by placing the act of artistic creation itself under a microscope. Texas inventor Tim Jenison tries to replicate “The Music Lesson,” by the great 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, using period optics the artist himself may have used. On the surface, the documentary is a debunker’s delight: a rigorous, humorous essay on how a sainted artist may have been more ingenious trickster. And it comes to us from a team known for pulling the rug out from under mysteries only to reveal more mysteries and further rugs: The conceptual magic-comedy duo Penn and Teller. Yet the deeper “Tim’s Vermeer” takes you, the peskier and more profound the questions get about art, process, and genius.

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