The New York Film Critics series brings “Breathe In” to the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center next week in a special sneak preview. In addition to viewing the film, the audience will watch Peter Travers of Rolling Stone Magazine conduct a live interview with director Drake Doremus and actor Felicity Jones. Returning this weekend is the documentary, “Tim’s Vermeer,” about an inventor’s exploration into the great Dutch painter’s technique.
In “Breathe In,” director Doremus trains the camera’s eye on a suburban family and looks at how the arrival of an exchange student disrupts their lives. The father, Keith, played by Guy Pearce (“Iron Man 3,” “The King’s Speech”) is a high school music teacher and cellist, auditioning for a seat on the New York Symphony. His wife, cookie-jar-collector Megan, is played by Amy Ryan, best known for TV’s “The Office,” “In Treatment,” and “The Wire.” Their teenage daughter Lauren, played by Mackenzie Davis, is a star swimmer.
What appears to be a serene, middle-class life in the suburbs of New York gets turned upside down when Sophie, played by Felicity Jones (“The Invisible Woman,” “Like Crazy”), arrives from England as an exchange student. Sophie is disappointed to discover that Manhattan is one and a half hours away, and she refuses to take Keith’s music class even though she has been playing piano professionally since she was nine years old. After she demonstrates her talent by playing a difficult Chopin piece, Keith becomes obsessed by her.
The older man/younger woman romance of “Breathe In” is a well-worn plot device, but director Doremus takes time to develop the relationship between Sophie and Lauren, and to show how Sophie uncovers the hidden frustrations of Keith, who started out as a rock musician and now feels trapped by domestic responsibilities. Improvised dialogue and a largely classical soundtrack lend enough authenticity to the plot to keep “Breathe In” from banality.
“Tim’s Vermeer” returns
The documentary “Tim’s Vermeer,” which returns to the Film Center this weekend, explores the union of art with technology in remarkable and fascinating ways. It suggests how the 17th century Dutch master may have achieved a near photographic level of detail in his paintings. The film follows video engineer and inventor Tim Jenison’s five-year odyssey to recreate Johannes Vermeer’s “The Music Lesson.”
Philip Steadman’s book, “Vermeer’s Camera,” (2001) and British painter David Hockney’s “Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters” (2006) help launch Mr. Jenison’s investigationinto how Vermeer may have used the camera obscura (pinhole camera) and mirrors as aids in creating his masterpieces. Directed by the magician and comedian Teller, “Tim’s Vermeer” tracks Mr. Jenison’s work with help from Teller’s partner Penn Jillette, who serves as narrator. The magic team heightens the film’s entertainment quotient.
The story unfolds with some of the suspense an episode of “C.S.I.” generates.The inventor methodically experiments with lenses and mirrors, then builds an exact replica of Vermeer’s studio and recreates in it the composition of “The Music Lesson.” Although Mr. Jenison had never painted before he began the Vermeer project, he works with an engineer’s precision and a big dose of obsession, even wangling a visit to the Queen of England’s residence to view the original painting.
Artists in particular will find “Tim’s Vermeer” intriguing, but so will anyone who likes Vermeer’s work or enjoys any form of art. Mr. Jenison’s experiment does not detract from Vermeer’s genius; it simply enriches our understanding of the painter and the role of technology in the art of painting.
“Tim’s Vermeer,” Thursday, March 20, and Sunday March 23, 7:30 pm; Friday, March 21, 4 pm. $12; $9 M.V. Film Society members; $7 ages 14 and under. “Breathe In,” Tuesday, March 25, 7:30 pm, $20; $18 M.V. Film Society members. All films at the M.V. Film Center, Vineyard Haven. For tickets and more information, visit mvfilmsociety.com.