Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
Directed by: Dan Gilroy | 113 minutes | horror, comedy, thriller | Actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, John Malkovich, Billy Magnussen, Alan Mandell, Mig Macario, Nitya Vidyasagar, Sedale Threatt Jr.
Satirical films are gradually becoming an endangered type of film. When they do appear, they usually deal with topics such as politics or art. When it comes to the art world, creators don’t even have to exaggerate to show its laughable. The incomprehensible jargon, the impossible types, the arrogance and the crazy amounts that go around are bizarre enough. That makes such satires entertaining but also somewhat easy exercises.
If not ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’. It starts out as an everyday satire on the art world. We meet the usual connoisseurs, salesmen and other appendages, all of whom are gushing about Art with a capital A with the same amount of fuss. For example, there is Josephine, an employee of a posh gallery in Los Angeles, who one day finds her upstairs neighbor dead in the stairwell. When she enters the neighbor’s house, it appears that this man living as a hermit has made a number of fierce paintings. And he has no heirs.
But then… When Josephine tries to market these paintings, it turns out that they possess secret, murderous powers. Anyone who has to deal with it is in grave danger. In the cramped art world, that’s something that few can handle well.
All this comes to us in an unusual combination of satire, horror, mystery and thriller. The satire is not very special, we mainly see a lot of pricked-up types talking about art. People who have names like Rhodora Haze (gallery owner) and Morf Vandewalt (critic). It’s funny, but not really original. The mystery component owes a lot to David Lynch, though it never quite reaches his level.
Still, this strange mixture is quite enjoyable. The art scene offers space for beautiful pictures, the dialogues are intelligent and sometimes sharp. But it is mainly the actors who do it here. Jake Gyllenhaal is perfectly cast as a pretentious critic, John Malkovich is equally as perfect as a drained artist, and Natalia Dyer is hilarious as Coco, a jack of all trades with the knack of always being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But the greatest credit to ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ is how the film provides commentary on the mainstream art world. It’s an awkward, slightly disturbing film about an art world that should appreciate uncomfortable and disturbing but no longer does. In which so-called enthusiasts walk around who above all do not want to be confronted with the deviant and inaccessible. So the world upside down.