Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) theatrical poster

My favourite news stories of 2019 was Maurizio Cattelan’s banana duct taped to the wall that sold for $120,000. Contemporary artists taking the piss are the reason I got into art history. Therefore, Velvet Buzzsaw seemed like a film made specifically for me. From Netflix, it boasts a ensemble cast as contemporary art professionals, concerned only with money and power. An aspiring gallerist discovers a treasure trove of paintings after her neighbour dies. Chaos ensues.

These paintings are admittedly very cool. The vengeful artist Vetril Dease (easily the most artistic/pretentious/villainous name ever) mimics actual haunted paintings like Bill Stoneham’s The Hands Resist Him that has reportedly caused accidental deaths, suicides and mental breakdowns. In other words, I’m trying to get my hands on that painting right now.

Low Brow Meets High Brow

While some of the kills and hauntings are somewhat gimmicky, I’d argue that this reflects a common understanding of the contemporary art world. There are elements of caricature and cheesiness but that makes it fun and accessible. If the film was overly reliant on deep thematic threads, it would feed into arty stereotypes.

Give Jake Gyllenhaal a round of applause for his parody of art critic, Jerry Saltz (follow his Instagram, trust me). Like an artistic Nicholas Cage, he’s eccentric and passionate with a crazy gaze. While the film can lack action in favour of dialogue, Gyllenhaal’s presence helps to break up stuffy conversations. For instance, a diatribe concerning the colour and artistic merit of a friends coffin delivered at their funeral.

Same Jake, same.

Above all, the movie is fun. As fun as a film about the contemporary art market can be. Which is pretty dang fun, it turns out. Pretentious art spheres meeting campy, slasher inspired deaths can be inconsistent at worst. However, its mostly iconic.

If you are searching for something packed with meaning and symbolism, maybe check out something else on Netflix. But if you want to see Jake Gyllenhaal’s bare-naked ass then you can’t go wrong. Three and a half Cthulhus out of five.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)
About the Author

I am a writer located in Melbourne, Australia that works as a freelance writer, artist, curator, historian and podcaster. I am interested in philosophy, sexuality, art history, curating and feminism. I write personal essays, academic reviews and studies as well as poetry and short fiction. My writing practice relies on passion, humour and vulnerability. I am an absolute horror movie nut. I believe it spawns from being an extremely scared child who could barely be around Halloween decorations let alone watch The Exorcist. But for some reasons I would still read the Wikipedia plots of these films as well as staring at the horror section at our local Blockbuster as if it could come alive and attack me as a singular genre. When I eventually watched Paranormal Activity at fifteen (my first watched horror movie), I realised that nothing in cinema could match my manifested childhood fear and instantly fell in love with the genre. My adult fears are far more abstract now like failure and dying alone. My favourite horror film is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (which I've written entire academic essays on for my art history degree), with close runners up being The Exorcist, The Shining, Taxidermia and Train to Busan. I am also a true crime and conspiracy aficionado and the resident expert on all things spooky for my friends and family.

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