Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
February 3, 2019 11:26 AM - Subscribe

After a series of paintings by an unknown artist are discovered, a supernatural force enacts revenge on those who have allowed their greed to get in the way of art.
posted by guiseroom (20 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I tried to watch this last night and gave up about 30 minutes from the end.

It's a hot mess.
posted by minsies at 12:30 PM on February 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

I liked it. The horror elements were perhaps a bit oblique, or insufficiently fleshed out. Josephina's demise was frankly ridiculous. But it was funny and it looked great. Highlights for me included:
Tom Sturridge's accent
Natalia Dyer's repeated scream-acting
Jake Gyllenhaal's typing pose
Jake Gyllenhaal's art appreciation faces/body language
posted by misfish at 2:24 PM on February 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

I would have liked this to be a miniseries; I want more Dease a la True Detective. I was also surpirsed that no article I’ve read mentioned a certain Black Mirror vibe by way of Night Gallery. I liked it, but definitely felt it was rushed. Maybe long-form TV has changed my expectations. I guess they left it open to a sequel with the sidewalk sale at the end.
posted by valkane at 3:31 PM on February 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

it's appreciated best while stoned
posted by growabrain at 5:02 PM on February 3, 2019

If you know anything about how the high art world works or the people in it, this is basically a documentary.

Halfway in and I started compiling a reading series for the movie, The Myth Of The Harmful Sensation, How the Times-Sotheby Index Transformed the Art Market, If You Don’t Have Bread, Eat Art!, The End Of Portraiture, POyangi And Fakes, and Pickman’s Model.

I would I've liked ti if it leaned harder into the huge labor issues in the art word, they're MENTIONED but never dug into when they;re 95% of the way there. I kinda wanted Coco to put the pieces together and start selling the "cursed" art to deserving members of the 1%. There was even a line cut from the trailer "There's a real hatred of money in this art" that ..suggests this. I'd like the Sackler wing of the Met to get its revenge.

But yeah someone made a sloppy hammer horror satire about my day job, which is fine. It needed to be tighter and double down on things, but it's ...not ..wrong.

(the focus on bad reviewers might we weird but there's a very good theory the Village Voice was bought and dismantled cause it still had enough cultural cachet to bring down the value of art investment products of the super-rich - it probably cost them less to buy and fire everyone)
posted by The Whelk at 10:07 PM on February 3, 2019 [18 favorites]

If you know anything about how the high art world works or the people in it, this is basically a documentary.

It so happened that I watched The Price of Everything on HBO just the week before, and I feel like if I hadn't, I would have been a bit confused about who all these people are and what their roles are in the art world.

This felt like the parts that were satire didn't bite hard enough for satire, and the horror wasn't creepy enough for horror.
posted by dnash at 9:50 AM on February 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

I felt like this was edited down a lot. They named the film after Rhodora's old punk band, but there was little in the actual movie about that band except for some mentions of "I quit being an artist a long time ago," a large photo on the wall, and her tattoo. I also got the feeling that Daveed Diggs' character was edited down a lot.

My boyfriend expressed incredulity at Josephina's apartment, saying, "Wasn't she like a receptionist a week ago?" and I said, "Well, I'm pretty sure you can't be a receptionist at an art gallery unless your family is supporting you..." (I don't know if that's still the case but it was when my pals were struggling with their BFAs/MFAs). A lot of things like that seemed very accurate but also so subtle that they were probably lost on a wider audience.
posted by queensissy at 12:30 PM on February 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have some mixed feelings about Morf. On the plus side, no one around him drops any of the usual bi stereotypes. On the negative side, he one of the ridiculous leads in a cast that's destined for poetic and supernatural justice. It probably wouldn't be nagging on me quite so much if I didn't watch Polar last night, and it did about the same thing.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 4:17 PM on February 4, 2019

I'm currently watching this on the strength of The Whelk's comment above (and, to be fair, Nightcrawler). The first 40 minutes are excellent. It feels like someone made a Cultist Simulator Cinematic Universe movie.
posted by figurant at 9:53 PM on February 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Netflix keeps trying to attract me to marginal films with Actors! and it's not working well.

My main interest became examining the potential anagrams of V. Dease, except I keep forgetting the unusual first name. Damn! (There's also the vague similarity to venereal disease.)
posted by sylvanshine at 2:27 PM on February 5, 2019

(Vetril Dease:

Dearest Evil
Divert Easel
Art Seed Evil
See Art Devil)
posted by sylvanshine at 2:52 PM on February 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

Okay, so this does 100% turn into The Ring in the second half, which I don't regard as a necessarily bad thing. It's a well put together film. There's are several of shots, two interstitial ones of the LA skyline at night, and Gretchen staring into the Sphere, that would look amazing hanging on the wall of someone with much bigger walls then I have.

Poor Coco. She had a rough few weeks.
posted by figurant at 10:02 PM on February 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

I liked that Sphere turned into a giant replica of The Ball from Phantasm.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:52 AM on February 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

(Vetril Dease:

I thought it was Ventril?
posted by Expecto Cilantro at 4:45 PM on February 6, 2019

Watched last night, what an odd one. If it was played as a non-supernatural art world send up, it would have been great, if it was a focused horror movie it would have been great. But it tried to be both and was way overburdened. So much was unnecessary. Was there any point to John Malcovich or Daveed Diggs's characters? Ahhhhh I wanted to love it even for its cheese but by the end it just dragged. Can't really recommend even if the art world bitchiness is fun and it had some cool visuals.
posted by yellowbinder at 9:20 AM on February 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

In my read, Piers, Damrish, and Dease all fit together within the frame of the classic punishment-of-sin horror plot. Morf is the character who finally expresses it in the last act: (*) there are boundaries that have been violated, and that violation has consequences. That boundary is that Dease wanted his art--a lifelong secret expression of his inner trauma--to be destroyed rather than viewed by others.

A typical feature of punishment-of-sin stories is that the people marked for death are often shown doing little sins before they get to the big mortal sin. In Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Mummy (1999), the greedy opportunistic bastards are shown as greedy opportunistic bastards well before we get any supernatural hijinks. In Velvet Buzzsaw, three of the greedy opportunistic bastards are shown trading Piers like an old racehorse and grooming Damrish to be the next one. Rhodora slyly dumps Piers on Dondon because he's not producing new work and she owns a cut of reproductions of his past work (his only current income). Morf thinks Piers is only relevant when he's not in recovery. Dondon picks up Piers because Rhodora has him, and meets with Piers without understanding anything about what Piers is actually doing.

Gretchen and Josephina don't have that kind of relationship with Piers, but Gretchen strong-arms the museum to cancel a show for emerging artists so that her billionaire client can get a tax break. Josephina hooks up with Damrish but doesn't really care about him as an artist, just as an asset with benefits. So the people who are marked for death are all shown treating art and artists as vehicles for their own financial success and fame.

Bryson is a weak link there, because we're barely shown he's a creep and a name-dropping groupie with a fetishistic response to Dease before he dies. Maybe they mean to imply that he was trying to steal the works.

That all could have been more adeptly explored, but at least in my read, Velvet Buzzsaw is following the formula and the treatment of Piers and Damrish are the little sins that mark the main characters for supernatural retribution.

(*) Badly, because we're talking about people who can't even manage to start or end an affair without art-marking speak.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 2:01 PM on February 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

And another part of the morality play are the redeemed ones. So Coco apparently escapes by giving up on the scene and moving back to Michigan. Damrish goes back to the collective. And Piers finally finds happiness in ephemeral art that can't be sold.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 2:21 PM on February 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

My wife works tangentially in the world described in the film and said they got a lot of stuff wrong, but enjoyed the film all the same. I work in video games, so I can certainly sympathize with a film (especially a horror film), erm... simplifying the particulars of an industry.

However, this is probably the best horror movie/art industry film by virtue of it being the only one I'm aware of. While the details of the art market may have been lost, I found the film to be pretty consistent and clear in its statements. Those who enable the "art as commodity" were being punished by the vengeful spirit of art for expression's sake. That, or Dease's art simply wanted to be seen by an audience, and killed anyone who stood in the way of that, either by trying to destroy it (Dease himself), prevent it from being shown (Dondon), hide it in storage (Bryson) or sell it to private collectors (the others).

All the victims were using art to make money. Piers, Damrish and Coco were the actual laborers involved with the art world and so were spared. Bryson probably would have been spared until he went along with he plan to hide the other pieces and try to steal one for himself.

I would love to see a sequel that had the avenging force attack collectors, an auction house full of speculators and artists whose work cynically comments on the art market while profiting from the same.
posted by subocoyne at 4:13 PM on February 11, 2019

That brings up an interesting question: is the guy selling Dease paintings on the street for 10 bucks a pop at the end going to die?

It depends if you interpret the transgression as distributing Dease's art, which he had wanted destroyed and seems to be the stated point of the curse, or what we can be pretty clear the film is really going for: the high-end art market is monstrous and deserves punishment.
posted by figurant at 5:52 PM on February 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I thought it was Ventril?

Hm. I originally searched for "Dease" etc to find the first name, and got Vetril, but both variations when put in quotes turn up plenty of search results. So, around 29:30 in the film one of the chars says "Vetril" and that's in the subtitle also.
posted by sylvanshine at 6:03 PM on February 11, 2019

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