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Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

Winston T. Boogie

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Title: Velvet Buzzsaw

Tagline: All art is dangerous

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror, Fantasy

Director: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, Billy Magnussen, John Malkovich, Peter Gadiot, Mark Steger, Cass Buggé, James Aston Lake, Valentina Gordon, Oz Kalvan, Mig Macario, Nitya Vidyasagar, Darren Richardson, Jasmin Marsters, Sydney Lemmon, Pamela Shaddock, Rob Brownstein, Lourdes Nadres, Stephanie Nash, Time Winters, Shantiel Alexis Vazquez, Sam Sami, Courtney Stephens, Dan Gruenberg, Andrea Marcovicci, Mike Ostroski, Nic Cornett, Tony Jacobsen, Nova DeJhemani, Brendan Parry Kaufmann, Giulia Rocca, Andrea Bensussen, Tyrone Evans Clark, Eric Shackelford, Joan Urchin, Kassandra Voyagis, Mark Leslie Ford, Kristen Rakes, Amy Tsang, Pisay Pao, Christopher Darga, Ian Alda, Stan Divranos, Damon O'Daniel, David Alan Graf, Steven Williams, Scott Broderick, Jeremy Russell, Sitara Falcon, Monique McKellop, Kevin Carroll, Patrick Quinlan, Stefan Marks, Eugene Nomura, James Paxton, Eli Santana, Scott Peat, Elise Falanga, Pat Healy, Keith Bogart, Robert Artz, G. Larry Butler, Sean Riley, Erica Chappell, R Scott Hoffman, Sofia Toufa, Reuben Boyd, Joel Patino Corona, Sal Lopez, Milton Perez, Candice Ramirez, Marco Rodríguez, Andrea Helene, Chris Ghaffari, Rebecca Klingler, Charlotte Taschen, Adam Silver, Joanna Strapp, Kanoa Goo, Jeni Jones, John Fleck

Release: 2019-02-01

Runtime: 112

Plot: Big money artists and mega-collectors pay a high price when art collides with commerce. After a series of paintings by an unknown artist are discovered, a supernatural force enacts revenge on those who have allowed their greed to get in the way of art.

 
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Winston T. Boogie

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Personally, I find Mr. Gilroy to be a very talented and interesting filmmaker. Loved Nightcrawler so this, for me anyway, is a must see.
 

Winston T. Boogie

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No spoilers in what follows...

So, what is this and who will enjoy it?

Well, I would call this black comedy, mixed with a thriller, with some horror thrown in.

It could be called the most epic episode of Night Gallery ever made. Rod Serling probably would have loved it.

Basically, the film seems to begin like it is one of Roman Polanski's takes on Hitchcock. In fact the opening of the film is very Polanski. Not a huge surprise really in that one of the films Gilroy and DP Robert Elswit watched while prepping to make this was Rosemary's Baby.

The opening introduces us to a group of not very likable and very self-obsessed characters we will be spending the rest of the film with. These are all people that make their livings working in the art world. Dealers, agents, critics, museum people, and of course, artists. They seem to all be most interested in using and one upping each other even though they are all supposedly friends.

Here lies what may be problem 1 for some folks watching this...you are not going to like these people nor have somebody to root for.

They all seem to grasp the idea that modern art is an illusion and that they create that illusion through how much money they can sell the art for and what they say about it.

For example, all of the characters know Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal) because he is an art critic whose reviews can make or break an artist. If Morf says something is great art then it is because Morf said so. If he says it is garbage well...you may as well line your birdcage with it or use it to wrap fish. Apparently people line up to buy anything Morf says is great...so Morf's word will morph a piece of art into a masterpiece worth loads of cash.

This makes him particularly important to the other characters be they artists, dealers, agents or buyers because Morf has the power to generate a lot of cash.

So, the plot here is pretty simple. A man passes away in his apartment building leaving behind a massive stash of paintings he had done in complete anonymity over the previous 40 years. By sheer coincidence a woman that lives in the building works for one of the top art agent/dealers in the country/world and she discovers the stash. Of course she shows some samples to her friend Morf, he dubs the work brilliant, which means she is now sitting on a goldmine of paintings.

Seems like an everybody wins kind of scenario because all these people are going to greatly benefit from the dead artist's work.

There is a minor catch or two...the first being that the dead artist did have a last wish and that was that all of his art be destroyed upon his death. The second being that...well...his art seems to have some sort of evil powers that not only brings his own art to life but other people's art too.

This brings us to the second issue some people may have with this picture. Don't expect any explanation of why all this stuff happens. Which to me was fine but if you want to know why the dead artist's art does what it does and why things happen in the film...well...it is not that kind of film and it is not going to tell you.

I enjoyed all this and I really like Gilroy as a writer and director. In this particular outing though he does sort of fail to find, establish, and adhere to the rules of the universe he has created and this maybe would have been better as a one hour episode of Night Gallery.

I mean the general theme seems to be these are all sort of vile people and they get what's coming to them. The thing they exploit, art, basically consumes them. It is all darkly funny even if it does not really make much sense.

The acting is pretty much excellent across the board here. The film is beautifully shot by Elswit. Check the opening as they introduce the characters in the gallery and the way he makes Los Angles look gorgeous. The dialogue is often very sarcastic and funny. These people are full of snark. You would not want to be friends with any of them but it is fun to watch them screw each other in every way they possibly can.

So, if you are open to a film that builds slowly, does not explain much, and is full of characters you don't really like that are funny and mostly awful to each other...well...this might be for you.

It is nowhere near as good as Nightcrawler, not as well thought out as Roman J.Israel, but it is a fun little spooky yarn that builds good atmosphere and once again delivers beautiful images paired with parts that the actors seem to relish sinking their fangs into.
 
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