Danielle De Luna
Art, horror, critique and satire collide in director Dan Gilroy’s latest film “Velvet Buzzsaw.” Gilroy, who directed “Nightcrawler,” pairs with Jake Gyllenhaal for a second time to critique the internal politics of the art world and the archetype of the tortured artist.
Although the film has prompted interesting conversations about the value of art and the role of mental illness in its creation, it lacked a consistent tone.
The film’s disjointed cinematography lacked cohesion, dancing between a dark, artistic take on a horror, and that of a made for TV film. This lack of cohesion reflected in the film’s inability to consistently register as a satire. In addition, the plot jumps quickly from subplot to subplot, preventing the viewer from fully investing in a singular character or group of characters.
Set in present day Miami, the film follows the lives of critics, curators and artists tumbling down a rabbit hole of greed and unexpected carnage.
Gyllenhaal stars as Morf Vandewalt, a prolific art critic with a biting, pretentious demeanor who clashes with artists and gallery owners alike as he navigate his profession with corrupt ease.
Gyllenhaal provides an entertaining character performance, but others did not match his intensely quirky energy.
He interacts with two intensely competitive gallery owners, Rhodora Haze, played by Rene Russo, and Jon Dondon, played by Tom Sturridge.
Their rivalry manifests through quick, jargon laden dialogue, discussing the value of their artist on contract.
Artists Damrish, played by Daveed Diggs, and Piers, played by John Malkovich, are caught in the crossfire of competition between the two owners, treated like commodities rather than humans.
However, the politics that contort the art world are halted for gallery owners and curators alike when Haze gallery assistant, Josephina, played by Zawe Ashton, finds an uncountable number of paintings left behind by a deceased tenant in her apartment building – a man known only as Dease.
Rhodora demands the paintings be put on display and sold by the Haze gallery. The pretense of competition quickly distorts relationship, as the paintings gain acclaim and Vandewalt’s biography of Dease’s reveals a sinister, murderous past.
What follows is a harrowing tale of retribution, as each individual who profited from the works is taken out of the equation, “Final Destination” style.
Danielle De Luna can be reached at email@example.com.