Would a great work of art be any less great if there was a little technical assistance involved? Computer graphics pioneer Tim Jenison had a fascination with the theory
championed by David Hockney and Philip Steadman that the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer may have painted with the aid of a camera obscura, a special projection device that could have helped him reproduce sight lines and shadings with superhuman accuracy. In 2008, he set out to try and deduce just how that might have been done, with his friends Penn & Teller
on hand to document the process (Teller directs, Penn narrates). For the next five years, Jenison worked out a process and spent countless hours devising mechanisms that he thought would allow him to make an almost exact replica of Vermeer's The Music Lesson
, despite having no previous experience with painting. The film is a nerd's paradise, full of tinkering and speculation. It gets bogged down in minutae at times, but ultimately, it makes a great case that art and technology go hand in hand.