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Velvet Buzzsaw review - an acerbic takedown of the LA art scene | reviews, news & interviews

Velvet Buzzsaw review - an acerbic takedown of the LA art scene

Velvet Buzzsaw review - an acerbic takedown of the LA art scene

A satirical horror from Netflix and 'Nightcrawler' director Dan Gilroy

Back together again: Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo

Sitting somewhere between Ruben Östlund’s The Square and Final Destination, Dan Gilroy’s Velvet Buzzsaw is a satirical supernatural thriller that goes for the jugular of the LA art scene.

We open at the Art Basel Miami Beach, where art snobs with fat wallets glide from room to room with glazed eyes as they gaze at the objet d'art. There's a talking robot exhibit Hobo Man, and a giant polished silver orb pocked with holes you can stick your arm into - what it does it mean? No one cares much, it’s about how much it’s worth. It’s all incredibly pointed and fun, with Gilroy showing up the laughably pretentious side of the art world.

Holding court, and with an eye for the next big thing, is gallery owner Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo, main image), who is trying to keep her best-selling and recently-sober, artist, Piers (John Malkovich) happy. We learn how Haze rigs the market, using her arrangement with the effete and influential critic, Morf Vanderwalt (Jake Gyllenhaal, pictured below), to buy up works of art before he drives up the prices with his rave reviews.Jake Gyllenhaal and Zawe Ashton in Velvet BuzzsawMorf may be the most prominent critic in town, but in his own words he’s "always wanted to do long form", (critic blather for "write a book"). The opportunity arises when Haze’s ambitious assistant Josephina (a superb Zawe Ashton, pictured above), who happens to be sleeping with Morf, discovers a wealth of grim but gorgeous canvas in a dead neighbour’s apartment and offers him the rights to the biography. It’s here that the film kicks into a spookier gear, losing its satirical edge, becoming a pleasing but by-the-numbers supernatural slasher.

Russo and Gyllenhaal worked on Gilroy’s debut, Nightcrawler, and they are no less potent here, even if their characters are little more than caricatures. Russo is ridiculously enjoyable as the the toxic former-punk-rocker-turned-sell-out. Meanwhile, Gyllenhaal is hilarious as the camp critic, reminiscent of Glenn Shadix’s Otho in Beetlejuice but dialled up to eleven.

The art world has long been a subject of satire. After all, it’s an easy target. Everything from the exploitation of dead artists’ work to the corrupt commerciality of the art world is eviscerated. Art critics receive most of Gilroy's ire, seen as little more than egotistical idiots, unable to understand real art. It’s the Samuel L. Jackson and A.O. Scott argument all over again.Rene Russo and Zawe Ashton in Velvet BuzzsawThen there’s the gore. It’s fun, camp, and trashy. B-Movie creatures swirl out of paintings like Vigo in Ghostbusters II, though that's about as scary as things get, with the odd bit of blood and guts thrown in for good measure. It certainly doesn’t have the psychological impact of Nightcrawler, but it’s all good fun.

Leagues ahead of Tom Ford’s abysmal Nocturnal Animals, Gilroy’s Velvet Buzzsaw is an enjoyable satirical romp, that has little new to say, but says it well. What’s most surprising of all are the final shots of the film that gently suggests that if you don’t like the art world (or the film industry for that matter), you know what you have to do.


The art world has long been a subject of satire. After all, it’s an easy target


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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