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Velvet Buzzsaw Movie Review: Netflix Chalks Up A Bummer

Subhash K . Jha

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Velvet Buzzsaw

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, Zawe Ashton

Directed  by  Dan Gilroy

Rating: * ½ (one and a half stars)

Imagine  if all the  critics who have ever offended artistes were to get their comeuppance.  Years ago Vishal  Bhardwaj had written  a script called Barf  in which he  had named a scummy corrupt  Bihari policeman as Subhash K Jha. Until then I had no idea the  director loathed me  so  much.

In Velvet Buzzsaw that moment of epiphany happens for art critic Morf Vadewalt(JakeGyllenhaal) when he enters a soundproof room  filled with  the sounds of all the nasty career-damaging comments he had made about artistes.

Welcome to the pretentious  perversely self-obsessed world of art,  artistes  and art critics. Here under on sleek shiny  roof we meet charlatans from both ends: the ones who pretend  to create, and those who think they  know how to  deconstruct a pretension.Guys, it can be so much fun to tear into one  another’s  hypocrisy. Tragically this farce misses the  fun by miles.

It’s a  great  idea for a  film, felled by  the  director’s own failure to  immunize his  narration from the  very virus  of phoney art and arrogant criticism that  he embarks on exposing.  Put simply,  Velvet Buzzsaw turns out to be as trashyand nasty  as  the people  it scoffs at.

How did the  film end up in such  a chaos  of priorities?

 For one,  there is no room for  gentility  in  the narration. Toni Collette may throw kisses at all her arty friends. But she  cannot  soothen the  narrtaive’s frayed  nerves and rough edges.The characters are all self-obsessed megalomaniacs and we don’t feel sorry when they begin to die gruesome deaths.We only feel disgust at how puerile death can seem when turned into a standing  joke by a plot that has no respect for understatement.

Hence, after art-gallery assistant Josephina(Zawe Ashton) discovers a treasury  of  disturbing paintings by a psychologically traumatized  lately deceased  painter, she sets  off a chain of gruesome deaths triggered  off by an unwritten  deal that  the deceased genius had made with the Devil: don’t try to sell the paintings.He should have added another clause: don’t try to make  a film about trying to sell the paintings.

As is the wont in scary  burlesques  this film derives great  jokey pleasure in watching characters die  ritualistically.Toni Collette gets her arm ripped off in art exhibit with a  vaginal  hole. The camera lingers on her bloodspewing limbless shoulder as if  there is more to cheap horror that meets the eye.

 Apparently , if these enormously unpleasant  people stare hard  enough at the paintings the images in them  begin to move  come alive with sinister consequences.

In spite  of  the  constant  motion(back and forth, in  and  out so much sex  ,so little substance ) not much seems  to move  in this flat dull lifeless attempt to  scare  the hell out of us.

I know the director wanted a  campy  eerie effect.All he  really gets is some  calculatedly broad  caricatured  performances from actors who have seen better days. Jake Gyllanhaaland  Rene Russo have done much better work to be proud of.  Velvet Buzzsaw is something they would probably like to forget as a horribly  aimed  misfire. So would I.

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