Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

I loved Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler and specifically adored Jack Gyllenhaal's performance in it so I was really looking forward to seeing them team up again. And it finally happened with Velvet Buzzsaw, a horror film about the art world.

The story mainly follows Morf Vanderwalt (Jake Gyllenhaal), a pompous and feared art critic who can make or break an artist with a single review and is connected with artists and other people in the art business, including Josephina (Zawe Ashton), the young assistant of Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo), a big name art dealer. When Josephina steals the paintings left behind by her deceased neighbour to show Morf and Rhodora and eventually sell them, Morf becomes obsessed with finding out more about the painter. Meanwhile, the people who are profiting from the dead artist's art are targeted by a supernatural entity.

Velvet Buzzsaw doesn't have much of a plot with its threads that go nowhere as they are picked up only to be discarded pretty soon. Despite this, it is genuinely interesting and gripping as it does a good job at critiquing modern art world, a world driven by greed and hypocrisy, a world in which money is more important and art itself and the artist. It also shows how the work of a critic can affect an artist, not only professionally.

The dialogue is pretty empty but it sounds so sophisticated it ends up being quite charming. And the over-the-top and pretentious characters, although some of them could have used more dimension and development, are interesting and somewhat likeable, and invested me right from the beginning.

As for the performances, most of them are great. Jake Gyllenhaal does a wonderful job as Morf and yet again proves himself to be one of the most skilled actors alive. He embodies Morf completely, to the point that it doesn't feel like watching Gyllenhaal but the actual over-the-top, silly character he plays here. The other standout is Toni Collette who plays an art adviser and steals most of the scenes she is in —when she shares the screen with Gyllenhaal, the eyes are on him. The other actors too give fascinating performances, Zawe Ashton being the only exception —I didn't like her at all, specifically because of the weird way she delivers her lines.

The cinematography is gorgeous, as it should be in a film about art, and the score is effective at making some scenes more intense, suspenseful and thrilling, especially when it comes to the artistic deaths, which I really enjoyed. That said, I feel like Gilroy should have stuck just to the satire about the art world and avoided the horror genre as it doesn't add much to the film other than a bit of entertainment factor.

1 comment :

  1. I liked the cinematography and performances but the horror element was so lazy, they initially established some rules but then it all went to hell in the end, the backstory for the dead dude was also so cliche