Thursday, September 4, 2014

MOVIE MOVIE WEEKEND: TIM'S VERMEER & FINDING VIVIAN MAIER

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Before we chit-chat about movies, I urge you to visit Cherdo on the Flipside. This link will take you to her post from Wednesday (yesterday, for those of you who haven't mastered the days of the week). I am cartoonified in this post, along with Shady Del Knight of Shady Dell Music & Memories. We join Cherdo herself. Cherdo is a scream, meaning I scream with laughter when I visit her blog. When you visit Cherdo (not if--when), please be sure to tell her I sent you.

Now, my dears, I have two documentaries for you today. I think they are quite interesting.

The first is Tim's Vermeer (2013, PG-13, Available on DVD).


I don't think I've ever seen a Vermeer in person. The Hurricane saw Girl With The Pearl Earring. I asked her how she felt when she saw it. She said it was nice, but she didn't feel all that excited about it. I know she gets excited over some other artists, though. When we saw a Frida Kahlo, we sat and stared at it for a long time, studying every detail.

As for Tim's Vermeer, Tim is Tim Jenison, one of the founders of New Tek, Inc., which invents all sorts of imaging software for personal computers. Tim has a boatload of money, so he can pursue his interests, one of which was to figure out how Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer created such beautiful, yet realistic looking paintings. Tim felt Vermeer's paintings looked as if they almost could be photos.

In this documentary, directed by Teller (the one who doesn't talk), and narrated by Penn Jillette, who wrote the movie with Teller, they follow Tim as he embarks on his quest to understand Vermeer's technique. Tim then spends an entire year "painting" Vermeer's The Music Lesson. Or not. It isn't Vermeer. It's Tim's copy. Although Tim wants to understand Vermeer, I don't see any enthusiasm for Vermeer's work. It's kind of like climbing a mountain because it's there. Tim wants to paint a Vermeer because it has to do with optics and he's in the imaging business.

Although I enjoy the movie, perhaps it should be titled Tim's Not A Vermeer. I doubt if most children will find the documentary interesting. Perhaps you can get your teens to sit down and watch with you. They might learn something about the camera obscura and the difference between a painting and a reproduction. Tim's Vermeer earns The Janie Junebug Seal of Highest Approval in spite of Tim's failings. They didn't keep me from being glued to the movie.

Next up we have a rather strange documentary titled Finding Vivian Maier (2013, Not Rated, Available On DVD).


Realtor John Maloof seeks photos for a book about his neighborhood. He buys a number of photos at an auction. They aren't suitable for his purposes, so he sets them aside. But he's drawn to further study of the work, which he recognizes as photographic masterpieces. He finds more photographs by the same person, and learns she is the late Vivian Maier, a woman who spent many years working as a nanny while she honed her craft as a street photographer.

The documentary is about both Maloof's discovery of the photos and realizing how great they are, and the strange life of Vivian Maier.  Information about her life is scarce. Directors and writers John Maloof and Charlie Siskel do their utmost to put together a history of Maier's life. It's not easy. Much of the information about her comes from the children for whom she "cared."

Maier's images are arresting, but I began to feel that Maier should have been arrested. Although her skills as a nanny seem to have been fine when she started her career, they deteriorated into abuse. Employers had problems with her hoarding.

Maier also hoarded her photos––more than 100,000. Why weren't they displayed while she was alive? Why were so many of them never developed? Was it a lack of funds? Did she want to shoot the photos, but didn't care what they looked like after they were developed?

Maier died in 2009. Some of her prints are for sale, and exhibits of her work are organized. She's thought to be a master photographer. I'm just glad Miss Maier wasn't my nanny. Not that I ever had a nanny. I raised myself just a few years ago.

I can't imagine this film would be interesting to children, and if they heard some of the stories about Maier, you could never again leave your children with a babysitter. They'd be too frightened. I don't know if teens would be interested, but this kind of documentary provides some art education, which most students don't receive in school. Perhaps you can bribe them with popcorn and letting them sleep late in the morning.

Finding Vivian Maier earns The Janie Junebug Seal of Highest Approval.

Having viewing!


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug

26 comments:

  1. I think the second one sounds a bit more interesting. I wonder what made her go from being a good care giver to an abuser.

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    1. I think many possibilities exist: she lost her patience as she grew older, she was frustrated with her work as a nanny when all she wanted to do was take photos, the "child" (now an adult) who speaks about the most severe abuse seems to have been an only child so no witnesses were there, or maybe she had a mental illness that became worse. The children from the first family for whom she worked found that she was living in a pretty bad apartment in her old age. They banded together to pay for her to live in a better place. That's loyalty.

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  2. Different from your usual movies this week You sent Cherdo to my post. She's now following mine & I'm following hers!!

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    1. You and Cherdo are a match made in heaven.

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  3. Hi Janie - both of these sound interesting and I wonder if they'll come down to Eastbourne at some stage .. i'm not good at watching things on DVD .. but glad you've reviewed them ..

    There's one on Turner coming out later this year .. looks interesting too .. good to know about them - cheers Hilary

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    1. I don't know anything about Turner. That should be interesting.

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  4. Once again, thank you for the support, sweet Janie!

    Your review of the Vermeer documentary has made me decide to put it on the view list. My friend and I made a trek to Philadelphia when an exhibition of the Dutch Masters toured the US in the 80s. I use Girl with a Pearl Earring in class for a example (I actually drew a pastel of it to explain how important it is to use the right medium and paper...pastels on black paper made us re-name her Zombie with a Pearl Earring).

    Have a wonderful day, girlie.

    Love, Cherdo

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    1. I love Zombie with a Pearl Earring. She hangs right next to my favorite vampire portrait.

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  5. Infinities of love, Janie Junebug! Thank you very much for plugging our dear friend Cherdo's blog along with mine. The Flipside is a fun place to visit and it deserves more followers.

    These two documentaries you reviewed would be of interest to me and to Mrs. Shady because we are both art lovers and appreciate inspired photography. I find it interesting that Vivian Maier hoarded thousands of her photos, many of which were never developed. I think for people like her the gratification comes from scoping out locations and subjects and the process of taking the pictures. Perhaps, for her, displaying and examining the finished prints was not as important. Many actors and actresses claim that they do not watch their own movies or TV series because it's about the work, the craft, the process.

    Thanks again for being a great friend, Janie, and have a fine day!

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    1. I think she probably didn't have enough money to develop all that film, and one sequence in the documentary is about her corresponding with a shop owner (I think it was in France) where they would develop her photos to her specifications. She was a little fussy. She developed some of her own photos, but she wasn't very good at it.

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  6. Janie, thanks for the tips and the summary of these. I'll have to check them out!

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    1. I hope you like them. I try to find unusual movies that most people don't hear about.

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  7. Tim's not a Vermeer, you are funny Janie. Vermeer is my favorite artist and yes the detail of his paintings is unscrupulous. I read the book Girl WTPE and enjoyed it. Is there a movie?

    I'll also look up Maier's work.

    Janie, I have private my blog and starting new at Tumblr, it is theworldasiiseeit.tumblr.com

    I just started, no guarantees it'll last :) the url has double ii for ii see it, drop by sometime, and I have installed disqus for comment as tumblr does not have a build in comment system, it is a different kind of blogging

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    1. Thanks for the information about your new blog. A movie based on the book Girl with a pearl earring came out several years ago.

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  8. You look cute as a bag lady, but I agree, the bathing cap needs to go.

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  9. Vermeer wasn't the first artist to use a camera obscura so I'm not sure what the point of all this is. Cameras don't create pictures, artists do. Still, I might see this documentary if it comes my way.

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    1. That was part of the point I tried to make about the movie: a guy with too much money spends an entire year "painting" a Vermeer, but it's not a Vermeer. As for the camera obscura, I didn't know about that so I learned something new. I think the movie probably got made because it's Penn & Teller and a rich guy. Penn acts as if it's a big deal that his friend Tim figured out how to copy Vermeer. I like the documentary and find it interesting, but not necessarily for the reasons Penn & Teller wanted me to like it.

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  10. I've read a good deal about Vivian Maier and may look for your DVD, for more views of her pictures. I think she lived in a time when women were not recognized for skills past utilitarian. I wonder if she knew she had a gift, rather than a compulsion. She was an odd person, no one would have discovered her and mounted an exhibition. Yes, I will get the DVD!

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    1. Vivian Maier was a very strange person. Yes, it was and still is more difficult for a woman to be successful as a photographer and in many other fields, but I don't think she made any effort to be discovered. Leaving thousands of rolls of film in a storage unit certainly wasn't going to gain attention. It's fortunate that the man who bought the film realized he had discovered something important. One of the families for whom she worked had a son who was hit by a car. He was injured, but conscious. Later he swore to everyone that Miss Maier was taking photos of him as he lay in the street. Then in the documentary we see the photos that have since been developed.

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  11. Interesting premise to a movie. I don't think I've even heard of a Vermeer until now!

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    1. He's one of the Dutch masters. I'm not all that interested in Vermeer. I like some other artists a lot (especially fishducky).

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  12. Thanks for the reviews, Janie. I'm not sure they are right for me at the moment. The last two movies I saw were Freaky Friday and the Breakfast Club. I should add them to my queue. Maybe Intelligence will kick in . . .

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    1. Is it the version of Freaky Friday with Jamie Lee Curtis and what's her name? Lohan? I saw that quite some time ago and thought it was cute. I haven't seen The Breakfast Club in years. I enjoyed that, too. I don't always watch movies I would claim are intelligent. I watch for enjoyment, too.

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  13. I watched Tim's Vermeer and was absolutely fascinated start to finish!
    I already have the other in my queue and am even more interested in viewing it now. :)

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    1. I think the Vivian Maier movie is more interesting because her story is so strange.

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