Velvet Buzzsaw is a goddamn muddled mess of a film and another example of Dan Gilroy’s lack of directorial talent.
I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s a fantastic writer, but he absolutely sucks as a director. He sets up these great blueprints for himself, but somehow manages to fuck it up in the end.
Nightcrawler is a fantastic script, it’s creatively written, filled with fun and interesting characters, dealing with a fascinating subject matter. The film on the other hand is plagued by shitty music choices, omitted scenes, choppy editing and ruined pacing.
It isn’t just Nightcrawler as Roman J. Israel, Esq., his follow up, also suffers from the exact same issues but tenfold. Now unfortunately, you have to include Velvet Buzzsaw in the mix.
Random characters would wander into scenes with no rhyme or reason, following them for a period of time, bringing the story to a halt.
John Malkovich’s character Piers, at one point in the film just up and vanishes from the movie. We don’t see him again until the end where he’s drawing circles in the sand as the credits roll.
His character served zero purpose to the story, a textbook filler character, as he doesn’t move the plot or have much of a reason to even be this.
Oddly enough, this film also does the opposite of that, by not showing or introducing characters that it should be introduced to us.
There are two instances, where we should have been introduced to two characters but aren’t. One being the mysterious art buyer who bought the Sphere art piece and the cursed paintings.
A bigger example would be Josephina’s ex-boyfriend artist she sends her new boyfriend, Jake Gyllenhaal, an art critic, to destroy his work with a poor review. The bad review is so harsh that her ex crashes his car, severely injuring himself.
We never see any of that by the way, only hear of it later, second hand. We never even get a glimpse this guy, it’s a slightly big character moment for Josephina, feeling guilty for what happened, yet we don’t know who the fuck this guy is, so who cares?
There are also subplots that get brought up, but are quickly abandoned and forgotten about.
We learn later on that Jake Gyllenhaal’s character Morf Vandewalt, has been spied on by his boyfriend for years, tipping the art gallery owner Haze if his reviews will be positive or not. Does anything come of this revelation? Fuck no, it’s quickly forgotten as fast as it’s mentioned.
We got one actual scene where we see his boyfriend Ed but many more of several conversations apparently that took place off camera. I’m shocked they even bothered to give him a name.
This happens a lot in this movie. We are given information second hand. Josephina even learns that her invisible boyfriend is cheating on her by a phone call. By who? I can’t remember. If I had to guess, it was from another character we never get introduced to.
And then there is Ben, the biker looking dude that managed Damrish. He shows up one scene to confront Haze about leaving their artist collective, and you think maybe something might come of this, but nope. Just another character to vanish from the film as quickly as he is introduced.
Who is Damrish, you might be asking. He’s a new up and coming street artist that leaves his art collective to join with Rene Russo, who plays Rhodora Haze. She runs an art gallery that features artists like Damrish and John Malkovich’s character Piers.
But unlike Peirs, Damrish has some reason for being a character in this, as he starts dating Josephina later in the movie once Jake Gyllenhaal starts to lose his mind.
Another issue this film has is, it has no lead character. You think it might be Jake Gyllenhaal, but it really isn’t as he’s mostly disconnected from the main story until much later into the movie.
Spoilers, but he later dies, so… off camera by the way. I’ll get into how tame the “horror” element this movie is later.
The other option is that Josephina is our main character, as she found the paintings and kick started this whole thing into motion. But that doesn’t really work either. She’s unlikable, yes but you can have an unlikeable lead character, they just need to be established that they are your lead, right?
Not to mention, and spoilers again, but the nonchalant way she dies is also uncharacteristic of a lead character as well. After that, that only leaves Rhodora Haze, who is the reason this film is even called Velvet Buzzsaw as it was the name of a punk band she used to be in, even having a buzzsaw tattooed on the back of her neck.
But she quickly dies as well, so…
I’m at a loss as to just who our main character is meant to actually be. It’s Star Wars Phantom Menace all over again.
Another thing to point out is, this is a film about art or the art world, yet this movie is filmed so blandly. It felt so lifeless and still, almost consciously like it was purposely filmed to look as generic or as boring as possibly.
I hated Roma, another Netflix film, but at least the cinematography was shot nicely. Even if the only time the camera ever moved was to do their 100th pan shot.
It just reinforces my belief that Dan Gilroy is a less than stellar director. Being a great writer doesn’t automatically make you great behind the camera as well.
You’d think this movie would be a satire of the art world, much like Art School Confidential was, another film featuring John Malkovich coincidently.
If you thought this was going to poke at the eye of the art community, you’d be wrong. This isn’t a satire.
It presents itself as a horror movie, yet there aren’t any horror moments. The only time we get any gore per se is when Toni Collette shoves her arm into the sphere art piece. And the last bit of gore we get is when Rhodora Haze has her buzzsaw tattoo come to life.
Jake Gyllenhaal got hugged and his neck snapped by Hoboman, another art piece. While Josephina, who I mistakenly keep calling Aquafina, gets paint on her and becomes an art project on the wall.
All lame deaths. Another guy was attacked and brought into a painting by a bunch of monkeys and another just hung himself.
So as a horror film, this doesn’t work whatsoever.
Maybe, there are signs of the film having humorous elements, but again, not enough to make it a satire or even deem it a dark comedy.
The level of humor here resides in Jake Gyllenhaal’s character making critiquing remakes at the tackiness of a casket at a funeral. Less Heathers and maybe more Heathers tv remake?
Aquafina, I mean Josephina is an assistant to Rhodora Haze, who runs a popular art gallery in LA. But currently she is on Haze’s shitlist as she’s constantly late, dealing with that ex-boyfriend we never see, only hear about
She’s also secretly having a fling with Morf Vandewalt, a bisexual art critic.
One night, Josephina finds one of her elderly neighbors dead on the ground outside her apartment.
She later ventures into his room to discover thousands of paintings and sketches.
Thinking this could be something worthwhile, she steals the paintings, giving Morf and Haze exclusive rights to sell them at the gallery. Morf wants to write a book on the art and the artist.
And you think, oh well Morf is important because he does some detective work in trying to figure out who this dead artist was, right? Well, nope, you’d be wrong as he doesn’t even discover Dease’s mysterious background, a PI does. The PI was hired by a rival art gallery to try and discredit the works.
The artist everyone seems to be enamored with is Vetril Dease. His paintings are disturbing to say the least. He left strict instructions to have his work destroyed upon his death. The last thing he ever wanted was his work to ever be sold.
Dease also used his own blood to paint his art pieces. Which I guess means his evil soul possess the art work. Yet he also has the ability to possess any art in the vicinity of his own.
I guess he can possess any piece of art, seeing as he was able to turn the buzzsaw on Haze’s neck tattoo real, even after she removed any hint of his paintings.
They guesstimate that his spirit is upset these people are making a profit off his work, so he is haunting and killing them. That doesn’t really explain Bryson’s death, the handyman assistant to Rhodora Haze who became mesmerized by the paintings early on.
I guess technically he did try stealing one for himself, so I guess if you stretch the rules a bit, he’d fall under the killer ghost’s purview.
Jon Dondon, the owner of the rival gallery, also got killed but he didn’t have anything to do with the paintings. Maybe the ghost killed him for snitching? He was the one who hired a PI to investigate into Dease’s background, finding out he murdered his family at a young age and lived most of his life in a mental institution. Withtat info he would have ruined the art’s value. Which technically, isn’t that a good thing if you’re a vengeful ghost hellbent on stopping your work from getting sold and seen?
Morf starts to get more and more unhinged and not because his name is Morf, but because he sometimes sees the paintings moving.
This puts a strain on his relationship with water bottle… I mean, Josephina. So like the awesome person she is, starts dating Damrish, the up and coming street artist.
Apparently, in another off camera moment, she and Morf already broke up, but to us it just seemed like she was cheating on him.
Another weird thing I noticed was Morf’s flip phone. Why is he using a flip phone when everyone else in the movie has a smartphone?
Is it so we can see him dramatically hang up? Why is he using an old ass flip phone like I still use? Okay, I did upgrade to a better phone, but not a smartphone, like the rest of the world now uses.
It was just random and weird to notice he uses this old ass flip phone. Especially since he’s a high brow critic that critiques just about everything.
I’m wondering if I should even bring up Coco.
Coco’s another assistant that keeps getting fired and finding the dead bodies once the haunted paintings strike. She’s played by Stranger Things star Natalia Dyer. I guess out of everyone, she was my favorite character. Though that isn’t saying too much as she’s barely a character. Her whole arc is she gets fired, finds a dead body and eventually leaves LA to go back home.
Still more than what John Malkovich had. He’s a struggling artist with creative block, who leaves town to draw circles in the sand.
That’s basically all there is to Velvet Buzzsaw.
I give this one a SKIP IT. I didn’t hate the film, but there were just too many issues I had with it that I can’t recommend seeing it. Maybe check out Ghostbusters 2 instead?
Next week it’s Battle Angel.
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