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Toronto Film Festival: High-profile releases and under-the-radar films are both satisfying viewing

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Speaking onstage to the audience, McQueen talked about the irony of a British director, rather than an American, dealing with the slavery issue in such a central way. “I wanted to see that history on film,” he said.

One of the opening night films was “Tim’s Vermeer,” a terrific documentary about how computer-graphics mogul and obsessive tinkerer Tim Jenison set about to prove, with, I think, high plausibility, that the great 17th-century Dutch artist rendered his paintings aided by a combination of lenses and mirrors. This theory has been around for a while – David Hockney, who appears in the film, is its most famous exponent – but Jenison takes it a step further by actually re-creating, dab by dab, over a grueling 213-day period, one of Vermeer’s masterpieces in his San Antonio studio. “It was torture,” he explained to the audience afterward. “Actually, I guess we don’t use that word anymore. It was enhanced interrogation.”

The film was coproduced by Penn Gillette and directed by Teller, who is mute onstage as one-half of the magic act “Penn and Teller,” but, at least in Toronto, otherwise quite gabby. He called his film “a 300-year-old detective story,” and so it is.

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