The unlikely gang of Johannes Vermeer, an inventor named Tim Jenison, and the magical double act of Penn & Teller got critics (and everyone else) buzzing at the recently wrapped Telluride Film Festival, where Tim’s Vermeer made its world premiere before heading north to the Toronto Film Festival, which runs through Sunday.
The documentary, directed by Teller and produced by Penn Jillette and Farley Ziegler, follows Texas-based Jenison who, after devouring David Hockney‘s 2001 book Secret Knowledge (which makes a case for the Old Masters’ use of camera-like devices), tries to adapt 17th-century technology for a DIY Vermeer. Part scientific investigation, part art historical mystery story, the film features appearances by Hockney, actor and artist Martin Mull, architect-turned-Vermeer expert Philip Steadman, and neurobiologist Colin Blakemore, who illuminates the optics and visual processing particulars.
Sony Pictures Classics snapped up worldwide rights to the film in July. “Having Sony Pictures Classics as the first words on the screen means it’s more than just a couple of Vegas magicians and an eccentric inventor in his garage,” Jillette said following the deal. “Now, it’s a real film that will change the history of art.” A theatrical release is planned for early 2014, but catch it before that on the festival circuit (next up: New York). In the meantime, cast your foveas on this clip: