Art comes to life in Netflix’s “Velvet Buzzsaw”

Jake Gyllenhaal’s new horror movie shows the darker side of the art business

Janessa Hammers
Staff Writer

The last time we saw Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo in a movie together was “Nightcrawler” back in 2014. Fast forward to the present, and if you take a look at the new February Netflix lineup you will find a new movie in which both Gyllenhaal and Russo appear together once again.

“Velvet Buzzsaw” has been a stand-out on Netflix, from the promo photos they used to advertise in splashy colors and dripping multicolored paint to the exploitation style draw to the film.

Reminiscent of past exploitation style cinema, “Velvet Buzzsaw” featured the high art world and murder as selling points in the trailer, and the film was produced by a company relatively outside of Hollywood (Netflix) with a famous actor in Gyllenhaal to draw audience’s attention.

The world of high art has been the subject of satire for many writers and filmmakers including short stories like “The Real Thing” by Henry James and pictures like “A Bucket of Blood” directed by Roger Corman.

Art after all is subjective meaning a piece that one person finds priceless may be worthless to the next, because of this it is hard to judge what makes a piece good or bad, priceless or worthless art. These rules dividing good and bad art are so insubstantial that many people find the art world to be a scam that people use to climb social ladders, not to mention a shallow environment.

In the 1959 film by Corman, a young man who is mentally handicapped accidently kills a cat and pours plaster over it to cover it up. A local art critic sees his creation and heralds him as the next big thing, but to make more art he kills and plasters more and more people.

Basically, the film is making fun of art people saying that they would take anything, even a dead person, and call it art. “Velvet Buzzsaw” is along those same lines making fun of the shallow, money-oriented art world and the greedy people living in it by making it appear as over the top and glamorous as possible before all the murder begins.

A struggling, young art aficionado working for a prestigious art dealer finds numerous priceless paintings when her neighbor suddenly dies and she finds his body, but the art has a dark secret. As the film delves into the artist and his life the horror is amped up and the gore begins.

There were a lot of elements I really enjoyed in this movie, the old-school horror tactics being one. The amount of fake blood used would have probably filed a swimming pool in addition to the suspenseful no-don’t-open-that-door-there’s-a-monster-that-the-audience-knows-about-but-you-don’t! feeling.

This movie made me laugh at the stupidity of rich people and made me happy when they met their doom. Things get that dirty in the art world.

Feature photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

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