velvet buzzsaw | dan gilroy | jake gyllenhaal | rene russo | zawe ashton | art | haunted | possessed | mystery | thriller | united states | tom sturridge | toni collette | natalia dyer | daveed diggs | john malkovich | billy magnussen | alan mandell | mig macario
Film: Velvet Buzzsaw
Director: Dan Gilroy
Writer: Dan Gilroy
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo and Zawe Ashton
This was a film that I heard about coming to Netflix and I was intrigued. I knew that it also showed at Sundance. What really peaked me though was the backlash after people started to check it out. It seems to be quite a polarizing film and I was excited to check it out to give my opinion. The official synopsis is after a series of paintings by an unknown artist are discovered; a supernatural force enacts revenge on those who have allowed their greed to get in the way of art.
We have a few different characters that we follow. The first is Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal). He is one of the best art critics and he is actually quite feared. What he decides on art can really make or break a career. We see him as he goes to an opening where our other characters are also at.
There is Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo) who is an agent. She has recently signed a hot new artist and trying to get his work into the major shows. There is a piece at this show that is revolutionary. It is just a sphere, but depending what hole you put your head in, you will experience something different. Working under her is Josephina (Zawe Ashton). She shows promise, but her personal life is getting in the way of her advancement.
The final character to focus on here is Gretchen (Toni Collette). She works at the museum, but has recently taken a job for a private collector. She is trying to parlay her former contacts to make a splash.
Things all change when Josephina comes home to her apartment. She finds a cane on the ground and dead man a few floors up. She learns that he was an artist and that all of his works are to be thrown away. She goes in to see they are amazing. She decides to take them and to ‘represent’ the artist. Word gets back to Rhodora, who reminds her of their non-compete clause. They decide to work together, Rhodora needing the fame while she will make Josephina rich.
Morf also gets in on this deal, obtaining the rights to write a book and exclusivity. Gretchen also strikes up a deal to obtain some of the works for her client and getting them a showing at the museum she used to work at. There is also Jon Dondon (Tom Sturrdige) who is at a rival agency who wants in on this. Problems start to arise though. As Morf dives more into the history of the artist, it is a dark one. He might have put more into the art than just the supplies. They also might be harboring a dark force that will change everyone’s lives who try to use it to further themselves with these works.
I’m going to start this off with the things that I liked, without going too much into spoilers. This film really has some darker underlying issues. The first thing that I really like is the paintings. I’m colorblind and don’t really get paintings, but I could tell that these are great. What makes it even better though, when people stare too long, they seem to move. This is something that kind of freaks me out. Going from there, all of these characters are horrible people. There is no real loyalty and they will do whatever they can to propel themselves forward. It is fitting that some of the things that happen to them.
There is also the aspect of why this is happening. We get a bit of back-story into the artist. We don’t really feel bad for him being dead, aside from the fact that he is an old man. He is a tragic character that we never see alive aside from pictures, which is interesting. Hearing the aspects of his life and him actually putting the negative energy into the paintings gives it almost a The Grudge feeling. When the paintings come to life made me think of Stendhal Syndrome as well.
What I really had an issue with and this was something I heard from someone else too, the film doesn’t really know what it wants to do. I feel there are problems with the pacing of the film. It is pretentious and it should be as we are dealing with artists, critics and agents. The problem becomes though, does this want to be a film about the horrors of the art world or a horror film. It really gets into the latter during the second half of the film and I think that’s where the tension actually builds. I felt my anxiety rise for a short sequence, but I think they crammed too much in that little section and it could have been spread out more. The film also is too long. Piers (John Malkovich) isn’t needed in the film. He is an amazing actor, but his story goes nowhere and just pushes the running time out. I also think the film would have been better served to delve more into the dead artist than what we got. I did like the ending and the implications that come from it, especially with what happens with Coco (Natalia Dyer).
Something that was great in this film was the acting. This shouldn’t really come as any surprise though. Just to encompass everyone, they are all pretentious and play it so well. It brings a sense of realism to this world. Gyllenhaal is great in this role as an art critic. I love his fall from grace though as he is feared at the start. The deeper he delves; he loses himself and becomes fearful. It is a different type of arch than we normally get and I liked it. Russo is solid and the love the villain that she is. I’m almost glad to see her fate at the end. Ashton is ambitious, but we see that her own shortcomings are holding her back. Sturridge, Collette, Dyer, Daveed Diggs, Malkovich and the rest of the cast are all great in what was needed for the film.
Effects for this film are quite interesting. They’re done mostly with CGI, but I do have to say, it looks good. The paintings moving creeped me out and is a good concept. We do learn there’s something in the paint that shouldn’t be there, which gives it an added aspect. Some of the deaths in the film were creative and even the CGI blood from them looked good. I really just wanted more since there’s not many. I also think they should have been spread out more. The film is shot beautifully as well.
Another aspect I really liked is the soundtrack. It didn’t always stand out, but I can say there is a tense segment of a few different things happening at the same time I really dug. I really noticed the song chosen there and it helped to get my anxiety going. That for sure was well done.
Now with that said, I liked this film. I just think there is an even better movie than what we got. I feel the film really didn’t know what it wanted to be early on. I’ve heard someone on a podcast state that they think it is coming from someone who really doesn’t know the genre trying to do a horror film. This does seem like it makes sense. I think that it could have cut out some of the pretentious art aspects out and give us a little bit more research into the artist and the creation of the works. The film is a bit long and what they focused on hurt the pacing. The acting though is really good as were the effects. Soundtrack fit for what they needed as well. I still think this is a good film. I will warn you again this is popularizing. I would recommend giving it a viewing to see if it is up your alley, but you might end up hating it.
My Rating: 8 out of 10