Review: Painting a lurid picture of flesh and bone

Velvet Buzzsaw

Director: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton and John Malkovich

Studio: Netflix


There is a painting called “The Anguished Man” that allegedly has the blood of its artist used within its own acrylics.

Of course, it could be that it’s part of a creepypasta that is continuously drumming up more believers affixed to the actual physical painting belonging to one Sean Robinson.

Regardless, the possessed painting was the first supernatural tale that my mind drew on when watching Velvet Buzzsaw.

Netflix’s recent flick follows the lives of three art world denizens: sesquipedalian critic, Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal), revenant of the punk era art dealer Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo) and ambitious gallery assistant Josephina (Zawe Ashton) and how the discovery of lurid paintings by Ventril Dease impacts them.

The foreshadowing line uttered by the robot installation of artist Cloudio, Hoboman, sums up the film perfectly as the allure of money sends them on their own downward spirals.

“I can’t save you.”

Haunted paintings are nothing new. The following eye of the Mona Lisa has been a prevailing theme in portraiture since, well, da Vinci.

But with the artwork of Ventril Dease, whose name harkens the art of throwing one’s of voice, his tortured soul inhabits them.

His final request was that all of the expressionist artwork be destroyed and not saved, but the ambitious Josephina, avoids this warning all at the cost angering an already tortured soul.

When she shows the expressionist work to Morf, he is “ensorcelled” by the work. And the canvas of their deaths is delicately set upon the easel of life.

Josephina makes a deal with Haze, and Vandewalt takes the opportunity not only to write the program but the flesh out the story to write a biography of Dease.

Everyone looking to make a quick buck off the artwork has their egos kept in check.

Even Vandewalt, whose critiques of artists are rife with sharp words but his name signifies his change into a more empathetic person, is not immune to the spectre of his ego. He is done in by the very installation he mocks with great, big words.

With everyone meeting their Waterloo, Haze quickly rids herself of all artwork, save one missed item.

As is the case with any haunting, new artwork isn’t created on physical canvasses.

But in the world of movies, you have to escalate the haunting to a denouement of buzzing effect.

Thus, the name. The plush lifestyles of upper echelon of the art world — bordering in fashion-model stardom — and the hack and slash capitalism they feed on.

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