The pretentious Los Angeles is thrown into tumult when a previously unknown artist’s works come onto the market.
When Vetril Dease dies he leaves strict instructions that all his art should be destroyed. However when gallery assistant, Josephina (Zawe Ashton) discovers his vast output, she is enraptured and can’t resist appropriating it to sell.
Soon gallery owners, Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo) and Jon Dondon (Tom Sturridge) and art curator, Gretchen (Toni Collette) are seeing dollar signs. Meanwhile critic, Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal) who happens to be Josephina’s lover is entranced by Dease and decides he simply must write a book about him.
The more Morf delves into Dease’s past the more dark his upbringing and past become. At the same time a series of violent deaths rock the community, could they be connected to Dease’s work?
Okay so, the cast of Velvet Buzzsaw is amazing and the performances are a lot of fun. Gyllenhaal is all weird and intense as Morf and Russo and Collette are fabulously bitchy. Ashton is self-obsessed and vacuous and Sturridge actually does a passable South African accent. (Although I can promise you none of us say howzit or lekker anywhere near that often). The deaths are pretty creative and the supposed Dease art is brilliant in a really macabre fashion. I mean, I would be drawn to it but I certainly wouldn’t want it in my home.
The problem here is the material. I felt like Velvet Buzzsaw was trying to say something… but I am not sure what. That the art world is pretentious? That critics have too much power? That commercialism has surpassed taste? None of this is new or revolutionary and none of it sticks because I’m not sure how it relates to the “possessed” paintings. Is the message that a dark and tormented past can lead to the creation of something beautiful but that that beauty is likely to have consequences? I am clutching at straws here.
Velvet Buzzsaw is fairly entertaining if you can laugh at the absurdity of the characters and the situations they find themselves in but it’s not coherent and it feels two dimensional and insubstantial, A waste of a good idea and a good cast.