“Velvet Buzzsaw” - Movie Review

Critique is so limiting and emotionally draining

My review - ◉◉◉◉◎


Velvet Buzzsaw

Directed by Dan Gilroy

Written by Dan Gilroy

With Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton…

Dan Gilroy’s “Velvet Buzzsaw” is a delirious and bloody satire of the contemporary art world mocking the profit-orientated people who commercialize art and artists. 

In the film, the brilliant Jake Gyllenhaal plays the exuberant art critic Morf Vandewalt who, thanks to his authority, influences art galleries. Morf will critique anything, it is in his blood. During a funeral scene, Morf is outraged by the color of the casket and isn’t shy to voice it. 

But Morf is confused about is sexuality. After leaving a man, he gets together with Josephina (Zawe Ashton) who works for the gallery owner Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo). Gyllenhaal is very entertaining in this flamboyant role.

Rene gives a great performance as Rhodora whose obsession is to get richer from the art she sells. 

Another power performance is from Toni Collette who plays Gretchen, a former museum curator who now advises a rich client.  

After the film mocks the art world for the first few minutes, Josephina, ambitious to make money, finds a profusion of paintings in the flat of her just-dead neighbor. Rhodora quickly sees a chance to make a lot of profit out of these paintings from an unknown artist. 

People are immediately entranced by the paintings and they rapidly become a big hit within the art world. 

The film turns sour from then on. The paintings seem possessed by the spirit of the troubled artist who wants blood. The self-absorbed characters who profit from the paintings start dying in gory ways. Art ultimately consume them. 

“Velvet Buzzsaw” is a graphic film with great production design and a great script. I especially love some of the lines that only Dan Gilroy can come up with. 

Toward the end, Morf becomes haunted by some of the negative reviews he published and starts to question the validity of his work. As a film reviewer, it feels a bit strange reviewing a film about the act of critiquing, and I can only suppose that Gilroy wanted this unease. 

“Velvet Buzzsaw” premiered at Sundance and is now streaming on Netflix. I do love the amount of creative freedom Netflix’s gives filmmakers so they can create their visions.