Vermeers, renovations and tomato soup

Last night I took the M Line over to Embarcadero and found myself at the Embarcadero Center Cinema, owned by Landmark Theatres. If you’re not familiar with this smaller venue do yourself a favor and check it out. They’ve recently made some important renovations to improve seating, lounging, and drinking. I’ve been coming here for 4+ years and although I really miss seeing the Woody Allen and Kieslowski posters I have to admit it’s looking good in there. I could be a purest and say I miss the days when I’d go there on a Tuesday afternoon and be one of 3 people in the room but that’d just be rude. I’m really happy to see that this smaller chain is doing well and that more people are taking the time to check it out. Didn’t they always know about the sweet validated parking?

Whenever I come here by my lonesome I like to roam around the quiet shopping center and if it’s a weekend I pop into the quiet Café Prague on Battery and Sansome to get some tomato soup and a sandwich before the movie. It’s a nice place with some comfy seating.

So I went to see Tim’s Vermeer for a second viewing. This film is a rare oddity in the ouvre of documentaries out this year and I’m not sure the politics of why it’s not heating up Oscar season but that’s neither here nor there. Its focus is on Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor attempting to solve an art mystery of epic Dutch proportions. Did Johannes Vermeer (“Girl with a Pearl Earring”) use camera optics in his great paintings and if so, is this cheating?

Having just had a big David Hockney expo at the De Young and hosted “Girl with a Pearl Earring” months before this should be fresh paint in the minds of Bay Area residents. David Hockney surmised in his 2001 book that camera optics were used by painters and he caused a great stir in the art world. Here Tim Jenison sets out to prove that a little ingenuity can create great art without compromising the value of the accomplishments. Technology and art go hand in hand in Tim’s world and the message couldn’t be better suited to the time’s we’re living in.

Sure we could ask why anyone would want to watch a movie about an inventor from Texas who’s not a painter, trying to paint a masterpiece? Because we live in a world of consumers that’s why. With all the products and information being thrown at us we jade ourselves to the craft of the past and fail to see how it informs where we’re headed. Art and optics. Creativity and obsession. Tim Jenison shows us that the technological innovators of our times are not so far removed from the greats of the past. Simple solutions to complex problems are nothing new and whether or not these tools were used, the feat is that they could be. It just takes eight years and a heap load of patience with Penn & Teller as they film every moment of the journey.

Our city might be engrossed in (this author’s opinion) a misguided battle against the techies moving in but we all use the tools they’ve developed. The relationship between innovation and creativity is important to remember. Its important not to fear how smart individuals moving into our neighborhoods will change things. Its important to watch this movie because if nothing else, it reminds you that on the Google bus there might be someone who loves Richard Avelon or Bruce Conner as much as you do.

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