What is Velvet Buzzsaw? Well, it’s a movie that hit Netflix a few weeks ago starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette and John Malkovich who has apparently entered the phase of his career where he only appears in marginal bit parts in second-tier Netflix Original movies about supernatural forces which is, you know, kind of a curveball. Alright, but that’s just descriptive. What, fundamentally, is Velvet Buzzsaw?
Well on the one hand it is a supernatural horror movie about an abused and reclusive artist who dies having hoarded his life’s work of masterpieces that he never shared with the world, kind of like John Kennedy Toole or Franz Kafka except in this case his work is made with, like, human blood and flesh and stuff so obviously it comes back to haunt whoever buys it which has never happened to anyone who read The Castle unless it was from trying to parse the meaning of 1920s post-modern alienation while living in a world where you can send a photo of your dick to literally anybody in the world at any time.
On the other hand, it’s also a well not savage but maybe slightly wild satire of the modern art scene. Gyllenhaal plays a critic who rules the world of hoity-toity art and to drive home just what an insufferable prick he is there is a scene of him writing a review of a gallery in his glass-walled home naked with a laptop planted right on his dick which, incidentally, how I prefer to write reviews and is likely why I can no longer have children. The rest of the film’s world is filled with equally awful, skin-deep pederasts and ladder-climbers who fawn over the latest piece of chic art in a self-indulgent circle jerk for impossibly wealthy assholes. Part of the film’s edge is, I think, that we are supposed to sort of root for the evil paintings to kill these people one by one, usually done in by the terrible piece of shit they have been praising as art all along, because they are such scum.
So what then, ultimately, is Velvet Buzzsaw? Well it’s a mediocre supernatural satire about the art world that kind of gets lost in translation somewhere, though I’m not sure how. It seems like Jake Gyllenhaal is acting in an entirely different film, and that only parts of his performance were then cut into the film that ended up getting made and which we are now watching. This happens all the time, actually, but it’s particularly inelegantly done here. So what is Velvet Buzzsaw? It’s impossible to say for art is life and life cannot be defined nor kept neatly in a box. For art is everything and we are nothing and Netflix will soon have all of our money and tell us what art is and force us to watch movies of John Malkovich until the entropic arrow of time whips the universe into a cold dead sleep and we sit there suspended in eternity wondering where did the time go.