Velvet Buzzsaw is a 2019 American supernatural horror film written and directed by Dan Gilroy and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, Billy Magnussen, and John Malkovich. The film had its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival on January 27 and was released on February 1, 2019, by Netflix and in selected theaters.
|Directed by||Dan Gilroy|
|Produced by||Jennifer Fox|
|Written by||Dan Gilroy|
|Edited by||John Gilroy|
In Miami Beach, art critic Morf Vandewalt attends an art exhibition alongside his friend, Josephina, who works for Rhodora Haze, owner of the Haze Gallery and formerly a member of the rock band Velvet Buzzsaw.
Unfulfilled in his love life with his boyfriend, Ed, Morf starts a sexual relationship with Josephina. Returning to Los Angeles, Josephina finds a dead man named Vetril Dease in her apartment building, and enters his home to discover a myriad of paintings, some of which are partially destroyed.
Josephina steals the paintings to show Morf and Rhodora, who become fascinated with Dease. Rhodora decides to exhibit several pieces in her gallery, which is an instant success. The artworks enchant Gretchen, Morf's art curator friend, and Piers, a former artist for the Haze Gallery. Rhodora keeps most of the paintings, and Morf and Josephina keep a small portion each.
To ensure the rarity of the paintings, Rhodora orders gallery worker Bryson to transport half of them to storage. Bryson opens a crate and decides to keep one of the paintings for himself. En route, the painting catches fire from his cigarette ash and burns him, causing him to crash into a gas station. As he heads inside to clean the burns, Bryson is attacked by a painting of monkeys fixing a car and goes missing.
Researching Dease, Morf discovers he suffered from a troubled and abusive childhood that culminated in the murder of his father and a growing mental illness that permeates his works. Jon Dondon, a rival art gallery owner, has hired an investigator to uncover the same story. He attempts to reveal Dease's story to the press but is murdered when a mysterious hand hangs him by his scarf. Coco, Rhodora's former assistant who had just begun working for Jon, discovers his body. Morf sees a hand in a Dease painting suddenly move which unsettles him.
Morf discovers that Dease used blood in his paintings. Gretchen negotiates display of some of Dease's collection in the city gallery. In exchange, the city gallery will display an interactive piece called Sphere that is owned by Gretchen's primary client.
Morf and Josephina's relationship declines due to Gretchen's sabotage. After a meeting with gallery owners, Gretchen sticks her arm in one of the holes in Sphere (a prime feature of the piece that guests would do themselves). The piece malfunctions, severs her arm and she dies of blood loss. Her body stays undisturbed, mistaken for part of the artwork until Coco discovers it and calls the police. Despite her death, there is a spike in interest and demand for the Dease exhibit. Morf and Josephina break up after he finds out she is dating Damrish, a rising artist.
Morf's hallucinations worsen and he urges Rhodora to stop selling Dease's artwork. She ignores him and, knowing he will write a negative article about the artworks, tries to sell them off as fast as she can and tells Josephina to do the same.
Morf hires Coco to dispose of the artworks, and she tells him Ed shows Rhodora Morf's reviews before he publishes them to know which artworks to purchase. After breaking up with Damrish, Josephina is transported into a supernatural gallery, where the paintings melt around her and cover her skin. As Morf puts away the Dease artworks into his storage unit, he is confronted by Hoboman, a robotic art piece he earlier critiqued. After a brief chase, Hoboman snaps Morf's neck. Meanwhile, Rhodora is almost crushed by a large sculpture in her garden.
The next morning, Coco finds Morf's body while Josephina's has become part of the graffitied wall. Rhodora, eventually believing the deaths are connected to Dease, has all the artworks in her house removed. As she sits outside, her pose inadvertently imitates the Dease painting she used to hang in her bedroom. The buzzsaw tattoo on her neck begins spinning and slashes into her flesh.
On the way to the airport, Coco sees a homeless man selling Dease's paintings to passers-by. Meanwhile, Piers, who has moved away to a beachside house, draws curving lines on the beach as the waves wash over them.
- Jake Gyllenhaal as Morf Vandewalt
- Rene Russo as Rhodora Haze
- Toni Collette as Gretchen
- Zawe Ashton as Josephina
- Tom Sturridge as Jon Dondon
- Natalia Dyer as Coco
- Daveed Diggs as Damrish
- Billy Magnussen as Bryson
- John Malkovich as Piers
- Alan Mandell as Vetril Dease
- Mig Macario as Cloudio
- Nitya Vidyasagar as Gita
- Sedale Threatt Jr. as Ed
- Pat Healy as the man from Parlack
- Marco Rodríguez as Ray Ruskinspear
Dan Gilroy conceived the project after Superman Lives, a film which he had a hand in developing, was abruptly cancelled because Warner Bros. was not willing to produce it due to the large budget. He felt that he had wasted a year and a half on the film, but he ultimately made peace with the idea while sitting on a beach, a moment that inspired the final scene in the film. In June 2017, it was announced Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo had been cast in Gilroy's then untitled film, with him writing and directing the film, while Jennifer Fox would serve as a producer, and Netflix would produce and distribute the film. Speaking with Business Insider in November 2017, Gilroy teased the project saying:
It's set in the world of contemporary art in Los Angeles, and its got a Robert Altman-like large ensemble cast. It's got a The Player vibe to it. There's a large cast and we're moving around from person to person as we move through this world. The story is being told through these different characters.
In January 2018, it was announced the title was Velvet Buzzsaw. In March 2018, Zawe Ashton, Natalia Dyer, Tom Sturridge, Daveed Diggs, Toni Collette, John Malkovich and Billy Magnussen joined the cast of the film.
Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 63% based on 164 reviews, and an average rating of 6.13/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "If you only watch one art-world satire with horror overtones this year — or most others — it should probably be Velvet Buzzsaw." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 61 out of 100 based on 29 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars, saying: "It's a wildly inconsistent film, sometimes disappointingly clunky and as superficial as the world it's mocking, but it's also an ambitious piece of work with unforgettable imagery and an ace ensemble." Emily Yoshida of Vulture wrote: "Writer and director Dan Gilroy is drawing from the same well of a bitter, morally compromised Los Angeles that he did for 2014's Nightcrawler, but Velvet Buzzsaw, as gleaming and sun-drenched as Nightcrawler is dark, is even more of an invective, and even more operatically heightened." Peter Debruge of Variety called it "[Gilroy's] most cynical movie yet, with most of the venom concentrated in the character of the critic." David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film a grade of C, saying, "Gilroy's film needed to be 60% better or 20% worse in order to transcend the forgettable silliness of its existence, but it could stand the test of time as a lasting monument to the idea that our own personal taste is the only real thing we ever had."
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- Tallerico, Brian (January 28, 2019). "Velvet Buzzsaw". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
- Yoshida, Emily (January 28, 2019). "Velvet Buzzsaw's Art-World Evisceration Is Pleasantly Perverse". Vulture. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
- Debruge, Peter (January 28, 2019). "Sundance Film Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Velvet Buzzsaw'". Variety. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
- Ehrlich, David (January 28, 2019). "'Velvet Buzzsaw' Review: A Silly But Toothless Satire of the Art World — Sundance". IndieWire. Retrieved January 28, 2019.