Sundance 2019: “Velvet Buzzsaw” Review
“You can’t judge a work by the number of views or the amount paid. Success does not diminish a work of art, and it doesn’t define it either. If art or a piece of art affects one person, it is relevant. If it affects four people, it’s relevant, and to me, it’s not the number of people that see it, it’s not the amount of money paid for it. Art is a very personal experience between the artist and person listening, viewing, or experiencing it and that to me is the most crucial part of the entire process.” – Dan Gilroy at Sundance Q&A for Velvet Buzzsaw
Dan Gilroy and Jake Gyllenhaal have teamed up again for another thrilling and utterly bizarre film, Velvet Buzzsaw. Set in the art world, Jake plays Morf Vandewalt, a prominent art critic in LA. As the story unfolds, we see his connection to other artists and people in the art business including Josephina (Zawe Ashton) who works for Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo). Tired of being walked all over by Rhodora, Josephina discovers once her neighbor died that he was an extremely talented artist. Despite the man’s wishes that all his art be destroyed upon his passing, Josephina steals the art and brings it to the gallery to sell. As the art becomes more and more popular, strange occurrences start to happen to the people around them. This film, while difficult to describe, it is unlike any movie I’ve seen in a long time. It takes a satirical stab at the art world and their pretentiousness while also making a horror-comedy. Morf is the stereotypical critic with elite tastes and an over-bloated sense of entitlement as are most of the people surrounding him and their elitism is undoubtedly not rewarded.
Jake Gyllenhaal continues to prove that he is an actor who can take on any role and make it his own. As Morf, he embodies this whole new character to the point where you forget that you’re watching Jake on screen. The rest of the performances by Billy Magnussen, Zawe Ashton, Natalia Dyer, and Toni Colette are all equally fascinating in their ways. Natalia Dyer’s ability to produce such a blood-curdling scream is fantastic.
Dan Gilroy is a unique and brilliant mind who puts out films that are a little bizarre, possibly insane but unquestionably brilliant with their premise. The way he looks at a story or movie and turns it on its head in a lot of ways makes his audience entirely engaged and enthralled. Despite this film being very dark, it has great humor in it as well. He does fantastic writing that makes a story come alive in every way. He has this incredible ability to enchant the audience, bringing them into the story he’s created.
Velvet Buzzsaw is certainly not for the average moviegoer, but if you have an appreciation for the bizarre and satirical, this may be the film for you. Gilroy has once again created a truly unique and engaging film that will stay with you long after you’ve left the theater. It will keep you analyzing each bit of the movie for days to come.