The Buzz on VELVET BUZZSAW
In what looks poised to join other visually arresting and artfully bizarre “Velvet” monikered movies like Blue Velvet and Velvet Goldmine, Netflix’s new movie Velvet Buzzsaw sees Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo re-team with Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy in a darkly visual horror entry set in the LA art scene.
Gyllenhaal portrays elite art critic/dealer Morf Vandewalt, (a character given a name so ridiculously full of white privilege that one can only imagine his holidays away from boarding school involving yachting and sipping rare scotches with Father in front of a six-foot tall stone fireplace), who is given an impressive collection of art to sell by Josephine (Wanderlust’s Zawe Ashton). It seems Josephine has recently found a large cache of paintings in her dead neighbor’s apartment, seeks out Morf for his super art dealer-ish name, and soon begins to wonder if there aren’t some very strange things going on with the dead man’s art. “If you look at it long enough, it moves,” one character notes, but these paintings don’t seem to involve your typical “its’ eyes follow me when I walk around the room,” or “Magic-Eye” sailboat type-scenarios, they seem to come to life to torture and kill their subjects.
Judging from the trailer, that’s sure to provide some amazing opportunities for some incredibly artful and definitely killer visuals, (yeah, I had to do it). Among the art pieces explored in this imaginary art scene are super derivative “Chicago Bean” style sculptures and even a robotic automaton thingie with an absolutely unmistakable “oh-my-god-that-thing-will-kill-you” vibe, but the dead guy’s “mesmerizing” paintings are gorgeous, watery figures with vague and lifeless faces (perhaps a statement on the disconnection and loss of self that is so common in today’s world).
If you’re like me and adored the stunning and stark Nightcrawler, which buzzed with an undercurrent of dark energy as it examined the linked evils of media and the worst of humanity, you’re probably going to find a lot to like about Velvet Buzzsaw. Certainly, Buzzsaw seems likely to use horror and satire to tackle the ridiculousness of the “high art” world and the trappings of fame, but also to examine the mythos of the tortured artist and how criticism of art is not without a world of its’ own criticisms. It also seems probable that Velvet Buzzsaw will deftly explore greed, wealth, and income inequality, as the paintings seem to prefer unleashing their violence only on the wealthy. (So, seriously, someone needs to tell Morf to change his name). The evils inherent in fame, commerce, and the excesses of the art world are always ripe for viewing through a satirical lens, and it appears Gilroy, (who also penned the script), is willing to tackle this with an intelligent voice in a hallucinatory and giddy visual style.
Joining the cast is newly-reigning horror goddess Toni Collette, John Malkovich, Daveed Diggs, Stranger Things’ Natalia Dyer, and Billy Magnussen, (who was SO terrific in the recent Cary Fukunaga-helmed Netflix series Maniac). The movie hits Netflix on February 1st, will likely bring accolades to Gyllenhall (who is always spot-on in his performances and seems no less committed here), and is sure to be trippy, gorgeous, and fun.