Home » Velvet Buzzsaw review – What is Art? Dan Gilroy Doesn’t Know

Velvet Buzzsaw review – What is Art? Dan Gilroy Doesn’t Know

by Ben Rolph

Growing up with a father being a Professor of Art I have been naturally brought up in galleries surrounded by the type of people depicted in this film, supposedly. I am friends with Turner Prize winners, aspiring artists and collectors – the whole lot. The film takes a limp swing to accomplish an established idea of this world whether it be through artists, collectors or critics – it miserably falls flat on its face. The filmmakers don’t understand anything, literally ANYTHING about art or artists. I get it’s perhaps a satire, but quoted below Gilroy believes otherwise. I’ll take him at his word.


The film is a dripping failure as it cashes in on the cliche of the beret-twirling artist stereotype (I am surprised there were no berets present). Anyone who works as part of the industry knows those who act like the people portrayed in the film are failures attempting to become something by capitalising on saying “oh look I am an artist because I wear a beret and speak in a certain manner” and inevitably get nowhere because they don’t focus on what they are creating or seeing. Gilroy has been quoted by saying “I would say it’s 100% accurate” which inherently shows his misconception and the idea that he believes this is truly a deadly serious depiction is rather hilarious.

To look at an example of a great film about art is, Julian Schnabel’s ‘At Eternity’s Gate’, an in-depth study into the psyche of Vincent Van Gogh. Schnabel is a painter, he lives in the world and understands it, Gilroy has no connection other than perhaps a fascination with art but no real understanding. Look at this list of artists, tell me which one fits into the cliches conveyed in the film; Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Edward Hopper, Julian Schnabel, Chris Ofili, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, or Robert Raushenberg for example. None of them. The world of art portrayed is entirely a misconception of view, lazily portraying a concept with an interesting premise.


We follow Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal), a flashy art critic whose power as a critic has no limits. The mystery begins with the discovery of a dead Ventril Dease, an artist whose horrifying work is discovered by Josephina (Zawe Ashton). Against Dease’s final wish that his works be destroyed, Rhedora Haze (Rene Russo) hastily snatches the room full of works and saves them. A presence is felt within his paintings, as things take a turn for the strange.

Perhaps the only thing going for the film is the horror-mystery elements, the close-ups of Dease’s paintings remind you of the masterful work of Francisco Goya in his “Black Paintings” which are truly terrifying. It was the only thing that worked, with a continued repetition of edgy swearing and pretentious drool – Velvet Buzzsaw can’t even be saved by Jake Gyllenhaal or Toni Collette, who both smashed it in ‘The Sisters Brothers’ and ‘Hereditary’ last year.


Josephina is by far the worst element, the flatness of Zawe Ashton’s acting was beyond boring and utterly cliche delivering some of the biggest eye rolling moments in recent memory. Gyllenhaal does the best he can with the flaky script, whereas Toni Collette barely shows up and when she does she delivers what she can.

A major issue with the film is its film editing, the jumping nature of the edit between scene to scene creates a disconnect in the ensemble. Characters come and go abruptly, also seemingly motivations change with the click of the heels. There is no real sense of continuity, it’s just a jaunty failure.

I had great expectations for this film. Considering I am engulfed by artists and galleries, and also a great horror admirer. There is no real merit to the film, apart from the occasional tense close-up moments with Dease’s horrifying paintings – it’s a film about art made by people who don’t understand art.

1/5 Stars

Ben Rolph




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