It's Sydney Film Festival time. My mental image of attending the film festival has me wearing my warmest clothes and making my way to the cinema through wind and rain. However, with this year's freakishly warm weather I'm still wearing summerish clothes and a cotton scarf - though there were at least a few drops of rain on my way home.
I've had a great start to the Festival; a documentary called 'Tim's Vermeer' in which Texas-based inventor and technical whizz Tim Jenison decides to test his theory that the masterly Dutch Golden Age painter, Johannes Vermeer, was not so much an inspired painter as he was an inspired inventor of technologies to aid in the painterly representations of his domestic compositions. Jenison does this not only by building the lenses and mirrors he believes Vermeer might have used, but also by meticulously reconstructing the room in which 'The Music Room' was painted and then using the techniques he ascribes to Vermeer to himself painstakingly recreate the painting. In the process Jenison learns to make and grind glass, turn chair legs on a lathe, grind and mix paints from seventeenth century materials, and paint. Australia's coming rather late to this documentary which has already created discussion and dispute among its viewers, such as the spirited critique in 'The Guardian' by Jonathan Jones that (rightly) dismisses Jenison's resulting painting as vastly inferior to Vermeer's. But such critiques of the documentary miss the pleasure of the film. The film's about Jenison, not Vermeer. It's about the nature of obsession. And it centres on a charming, ironically self-aware, extraordinarily talented, but I'm sure maddeningly focused, modern polymath.
I think Jenison demonstrates that Vermeer could have used the technical aids he demonstrates, but that even so there's an unrivalled genius to his paintings. Whatever. See the documentary and marvel at Jenison and his obsession.
Definitely four stars.