I wanted so badly to like Velvet Buzzsaw. Nightcrawler haunted my brain so fiercely I slept not once for days, and was so delighted the gang was getting back together for a slasher about the contemporary art world.
Maybe the camp was lost on me. Maybe I just don’t know enough about art to appreciate the satire. But at some point during the movie I found myself begging for the final death, and for it to be done. Unresolved plot points aside, it was a predictable slasher that you’d maybe appreciate if you’re an undervalued lackey for some Los Angeles millionaire who continues to amass millions for…making their employees make art for them. If you want imaginative deaths, I would suggest the Final Destination series.
Also, totally tangential, but a friend brought this up to me: the dead painter, Dease, whose pieces haunted the art elite of LA wasn’t interesting. Oh, your painting has blood on it? Congrats, you’re one of literally millions of troubled painters. Find a better hook. Next!
That said, I do like what the film says about hypocrisy within creative industries. Velvet Buzzsaw is the name of the punk band Rhodora Haze fronted before becoming a renowned gallery owner. Such a leap is Rhodora’s transformation from DIY punk to exploitative art mogul, and we see this disparity best through the journey of her assistant, Coco. A 22 year old aspiring artist, Coco moved to Los Angeles from Massachusetts to try her hand at the big leagues. After being fired by Rhodora, Coco drifts from artist to artist, trying to make ends meet. Instead she works long, thankless hours, and encounters nearly every body claimed by the spirit of Dease. By the end of the film, Coco, with no one left to assist, and no dream left to pursue, moves back home.
The irony of Dease killing those who dared to exploit his art all while the lowest paid employee helping keep the art world’s cogs turning was legitimately being exploited was palpable. Plus, there’s a shot of a naked Jake Gyllenhaal typing on a laptop, and John Malkovich is there for, like, five minutes (I couldn’t tell you why). Velvet Buzzsaw is fun, but overall vapid. It’s beautiful, but it’s empty.
Don’t expect to think too much, or you’ll just get mad.