REVIEW: Velvet Buzzsaw

★★★ | Zach Hester

In the first line of this film’s lone trailer, Jake Gyllenhaal muses that “critique is so limiting and emotionally draining.” As someone who is actually writing a critique of this exceptional film, I agree. Despite sometimes being utterly bonkers, I believe Velvet Buzzsaw is easily one of the most unique films that Netflix has ever produced.

In his second collaboration with director Dan Gilroy and actress Rene Russo, Jake Gyllenhaal stars in an all-star ensemble as Morf Vandewalt, a high brow art critic with Tom Ford glasses twirling between his fingers and an icy wit on his tongue. As Vandewalt’s on-and-off lover Josephina (Zawe Ashton) discovers a mysterious collection of paintings from an equally mysterious, deceased artist, the men and women of the art world who begin to capitalize on this brilliant collection begin to drop like flies.

Velvet Buzzsaw feels like a commentary of the pretentiousness of not just the art world, but the business side of the creative process as well. It feels so far from Gilroy’s last film and based on the script itself, feels more like a Wes Anderson film.

On its face, the movie is a parody of the uppity world of modern art with a dash or two of thriller-elements thrown into the mix. It’s a foolish farce that will have you so entranced sometimes that you aren’t even sure if the film you’re watching actually has a genre.

The color palette of the cinematography is full of bright, bold shades even outside of the art in the movie. Each color from the costumes to the production design feels chosen for a reason. The appearance and visual effects in the film are award-worthy to say the least.

Jake Gyllenhaal remains one of my favorite actors. His performance as this frequently sexually-fluid, bitterly blunt art critic might be his most unique performance since his turn as Lou Bloom in Nightcrawler, which was also directed and written by Dan Gilroy. It seems like Gilroy brings out the best in this highly underrated actor. His diction is perfect and the preciseness of his character becomes the focal point of the film for me. Everything about him is so particular…until he begins to lose it, but I won’t be spoiling anything.

Velvet Buzzsaw isn’t just a parody but speaks the ever-changing nature of art and the creative process as well. I mean, the main character’s name, who critiques art for a living, is named Morf…as in morph, i.e. change. It’s a deep dive into how the commercial side of creativity seems to subvert the true creative process that allows an artist to flourish and carefully mold their craft. It’s this mad nature of creativity that leads the film from point to point in an ever-developing web that might just cause you to lose all your marbles.