Vermeer & Budapest

Glib reviews Of recent DVD releases.

- Directed by Teller (from Penn & Teller)

An interesting documentary that follow’s Tim Jenison, an inventor and pal of magician/professional debunkers, ‘Penn & Teller,’ as Jenison spends years and a lot of money figuring out how Vermeer was able to reproduce the photographic quality his paintings achieved. Jenison is unwavering in his belief that as many modern painters/art historians have imagined, using some sort of camera obscura or similar lensed contraption.

Jenison does a good job of proving his thesis, while including folks who wrote books on the subject, like the excellently snarky David Hockney. I would watch a reality show of Hockney and Jenison speeding through the countryside yakking about art like they do at one point in the film. Maybe they could solve art mysteries together.

Dogged as Vermeer himself must have been; Tim proceeds to figure out how to replicate a Vermeer. The creator of the industry standard 3D program ‘Lightwave’ manages in 6 months or more of painstaking work, actually produce a pretty fair copy of a Vermeer. Obsessed weirdos (and I mean that in the best fellow obsessed nerd kind of way) make for the best documentaries, it seems.

It’s a light engaging documentary, that makes you appreciate that people/artists were just as creative and innovative hundreds of years ago, in creating images as folks are now with all their fancy computers. To my mind, any one who thinks this ‘technique’ diminishes Vermeer’s artwork in any way, if it is really close to the truth or not, is crazy. It’s proof of the genius and dedication of the artist, to understand that there was a way to paint what he wanted to paint, and doing it. It still takes a genius to be a real Vermeer. The copy is just a copy.

I highly recommend this documentary for some light education and a feel good story about learning to do something.

7.5674 million-ty billion hours matching dots of colour into a coherent copy a tiny section of an Old Master

- Directed By Wes Anderson.

For a couple of years now I have been saying how everyone is making their own ‘Wes Anderson’ movies, (Richard Linklater’s Bernie, and David Gordon Green’s Prince Avalanche are the two most obvious homages to Anderson’s Nostalgia driven mise en scene, in my estimation) and I mean that in a good way usually. I mean that other film makers are adding in a bit of his artifice, his sense of the film as an art form unto itself, that perhaps might even eat itself like the fabled Ouroboros with it’s ability for cultural , and self reference. Sometimes, as in the case of many of the indie crime dramas you see, it can be hard to get away from being called Tarantino-esque. Tarantino meanwhile is riffing on all the old masters, himself, sometimes to better affect than others. Anderson, like Tarantino, riffs on old genres, and cinematic storytelling techniques.

Grand Budapest Hotel, like the best of Tarantino, or perhaps more aptly, Canadian (Winnipeg) film maker Guy Maddin. From the very start, this film felt to me like what Guy might create given 60 million dollars. It was also from the very first second, identifiable as a Wes Anderson film. What it shares more with Maddin, say than Tarantino, is the echoes of films past, cliches told so many times before, is evident in that joy of the 'in camera effect,' and the actual technique of visually telling the story; rather than Tarantino’s pastiche of eras gone by via characterization. All the characters in Grand Budapest Hotel are echoes not only of bygone stereotypes, but they have that Anderson quirkiness that is present in all his films.

M. Gustave’s small habit of calling everyone Darling is both innocent, and seductive, as are most of the roguish folks who inhabit the stories being told, within stories told by someone else. Standout performances for me were of course, Ralph Fiennes, who tore it up, every second he was on screen, the new comer, playing a young F. Murray Abraham - Tony Revolori - he holds his own with Fiennes and his all out scenery chewing. 

The usual parade of cameos from Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and so on, is perfectly timed, and the film left me smiling as it started me smiling with it’s opening frames, and the sense of wonder at cinematic storytelling they portended, and delivered upon.

This review is a bit more slavish than I meant it to be. Loved this picture, more than I realized. My favourite film in 2014 thus far.

9.56337 Evil Willem Dafoe moments on motorcycles outta 10


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