Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
This is a film I really wanted to love based on its cast and premise. Unfortunately it doesn’t work quite as well as it could.
Set in the pretentious and fickle world of art, it centers around a gallery – Haze – run by former punk-rocker, Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo). One evening, lauded art critic Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal) attends an exhibition at the gallery with his friend, Josephina (Zawe Ashton), who also works there.
Morf is in a relationship with Ed but is deeply unhappy so he starts up with Josephina instead. Around the same time, Josephina returns home to her apartment block to find one of her elderly neighbours dead after a fall. The neighbour, Vetril Dease is a painter and J sneaks into his apartment after the fact to discover a vast collection of brilliant paintings.
On thin ice and recently demoted by her boss Rhodora, this is J’s opportunity to re-balance the scales and score big on the art scene. So she presents herself as Dease’s representative and a post-humous star is born. Unfortunately for Josephina, there’s more to Dease and his work than meets the eye and eery shit kicks off.
Rhodora, obsessed with the paintings, exhibits a small collection immediately and orders J to put the rest in storage. As desire for Dease’s art grows, including massive interest from art curator Gretchen (Toni Collette) and artist Piers (John Malkovich), Rhodora seeks to ensure the rarity of his paintings by hiding most of them away. Sadly this is not done fast enough and one by one our collection of central characters begin to suffer terrible accidents.
Velvet Buzzsaw is a thriller/horror with a supernatural edge. Although it is not as good as I wanted it to be, it is interesting. There are multiple deaths that really go to town creatively and I loved them. There a couple that really spoke to me as they incorporate two of my biggest loves: graffiti and tattoos.
Although this is heralded as a horror and it does explore some overt horror themes, it isn’t that scary. It has a creepy tone that I did enjoy, and all the darkness of Dease’s apartment and paintings is stark in contrast to the bright light surfaces of the gallery interiors.
The whole scene in fact is wonderfully pretentious which I also dig. A little bit of pretension never hurt anyone I always think. It sends up the art world well and there’s a definite tongue-in-cheek dig at the eccentrics who inhabit it. Almost all the film’s characters are the worst – Morf and Josephina absolutely included – but you can kind of respect them for their hunger. Stranger Things‘ Natalia Dyer pops up as poor gallery employee Coco who always seems to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐