Feb 11, 2019
We’re here live at the scene, as #FilmTwitter continues its vicious carving up of the latest film from Dan Gilroy, sometimes for very good reasons, other times for what seems to be the sheer joy, and admittedly, sometimes for both. Ryan L. Terry is back to let us know his thoughts, and hopefully there’s something left for you all to go watch when it’s over. If you’re looking for another film that lampoons the world of high art, definitely be sure to check out Banksy’s incredible mockumentary, “Exit Through The Gift Shop” (Episode #060). And don’t miss our review for “A Simple Favor” (Episode #274), which Ryan will reference later.
Here’s a quick promo for Ryan, followed by the review.
Today’s movie is Netflix' “Velvet Buzzsaw" (2019), the satirical thriller written and directed by Dan Gilroy, which debuted on February 1st. Go beyond the frame into the vicious world of the art business.
Much like the hype surrounding “Bird Box”, this movie was also proceeded by a prolific number of memes on social media. Although this movie opened to mixed reviews from critics and audiences, I found it to be immensely enjoyable. Not to the point that it's a great movie, but a solid thriller. A plot and setting that could have so easily been boring were intense and seductive. Who would have thought being a critic would be so alluring and perilous? Furthermore, this movie provides audiences with thought-provoking commentary on art and business. You witness all the players in the art business game: the creators, critics, clients, and curators. Essentially, the theme of this sexy, sinister satire is the more we attribute a monetary value to art that is inspired by a creator's incredibly dark place, the more we run the risk of suffering, even vicariously, a deadly consequence for our selfish actions.
“Velvet Buzzsaw” stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a feared art critic who can literally make or break careers, and the talents of Toni Collette, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, and John Malkovich. After a depressed art dealer discovers hauntingly bizarre paintings in the apartment of an unknown artist following his mysterious death, a supernatural force enacts violent revenge on those whom allowed greed and the glorification of macabre inspiration to get in the way of appreciating art for the sake of art.
Most movies require you to exhibit a suspension of disbelief, and in this movie, it comes down to whether or not you'll allow yourself to (1) believe that the disturbing art discovered in the deceased's apartment would ignite the buying frenzy that it did; and (2) allow yourself to believe that art inspired by dark places could be haunted. Believe it or not, it's more of the first because it is clear that this is a hybrid horror-thriller, so you will already believe that the supernatural elements are possible. Provided you permit yourself to buy into this portrayal of the business of collecting, buying, and selling art, the movie offers a brilliant image of the seedy underbelly of the art world. At the center of the plot, it is not the vengeful poltergeist or the twisted relationships, but it is the monetization of perception. Such an apropos topic for our increasingly image-driven society's penchant for erecting facades that sell on social media. I am reminded of the iconic latin inscription around MGM's Leo the lion "ars gratia artis" (translated art for art's sake). Sometimes art, which includes motion pictures, needs to be created for the contribution to the world of art more so than simply as a cash grab. Instead of appreciating the macabre art for its intrinsic value, those involved in this plot are more concerned with delivering a perception that will fetch the highest price. This can be likened to a studio's marketing company selling the perception that a particular high-concept movie is a work of art that demands your money, when it's just a fun, even well made, action movie with high entertainment value that comes with some good feels.
For all the movie did right, and don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it, I cannot help but posit that Paul Feig would have known how to take all the elements and build more engaging narrative. Citing “A Simple Favor”, I am convinced that Feig should've been the writer-director of this story. That being said, I believe what hampers Gilroy's movie and why it failed, by many, to live up to the hype is the observation that it was billed as a horror movie when it should have been marketed as a thriller. A lot of the feedback I was reading on Twitter was related to the disappointment in the lack of horror in the movie. Much like one may characterize “Black Swan” as a heavy, disturbing drama with horror elements but not a horror film, “Velvet Buzzsaw” is a thriller with horror elements, not a horror movie. One might say that “Velvet Buzzsaw” pulled a bait-n-switch in order to get more people interested in the movie about the art business with its horror skewed marketing. Furthermore, Netflix also released that erotic image of full side nudity of Gyllenhaal in order to get the straight girls and gay guys interested in watching the movie, suggesting that its eroticism would be throughout the story, when in reality there’s just a few erotic moments in the movie. Had the movie been marketed more accurately as a thriller, then perhaps the initial feedback from critics and audiences would have been more favorable.
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
One Movie Punch: 7.0/10
“Velvet Buzzsaw” (2019) is rated Rand is currently streaming on Netflix.