We are all Jake Gyllenhaal in the opening shot of this trailer for Velvet Buzzsaw, pulling on our glasses, scooting our face as close to the screen as possible, hoping to take in every ounce of thought Dan Gilroy is expelling upon Netflix. Or maybe we’re Rene Russo sitting back, watching the watcher, knowing that something profound is about to happen despite his reservations regarding the limitations of criticism. This guy is about to have his world turned upside down. Let’s get on with it, shall we?
Sweet mother of God. Were you expecting that? I mean, Nightcrawler (which also stars Gyllenhaal and Russo) is an excruciating cinematic tour through a deteriorating ego and utterly exhilarating in its presentation. That film alone converted me into a Dan Gilroy fan for life. His sophomore venture of Roman J. Israel, Esq. displayed some powerful performances from Denzel Washington and Colin Farrell, but the narrative fell flat and certainly didn’t spark any sort of emotional anxiety we were left uncomfortably craving after his first film.
The idea of an artist perishing in obscurity only to have his paintings discovered and exploited by the art world immediately rekindled a memory of the woefully underseen documentary In the Realm of the Unreal. In that story, hospital janitor Henry Darger died poor and alone in a ratty apartment. Discovered alongside his body were thousands of pages of a fantastical manuscript as well as hundreds of illustrations and watercolors. With no family to claim ownership, Darger’s landlords lifted the work and posthumously transformed him into the talk of the town.
Now imagine that those paintings still contained his rage and his misery and that they could reach beyond their borders and grab you by the throat. The idea of a tortured and haunted artistic output is nothing new as creatives love to exorcize the terror of a blank canvas to the very audience that demands their soul. From Ghostbusters II to Annabelle to The Shining, we’ve witnessed hate contained in art, but have we ever seen monkeys rip free from their two-dimensional oil painting and tear into a nosy observer? Hell no.
The Velvet Buzzsaw trailer is a big promise and one hell of an advertisement. It invites us to mock Gyllenhaal’s particular critical mannerisms and take delight in his passion for art turning against him. Gilroy has no room in this assault for nuance or nicety. Velvet Buzzsaw is going for the jugular, and it wants to tear through the high and mighty that prefer to observe from on high. It appears to be a tale of vengeance for those like Henry Darger, the artists that selflessly sought to bring beauty into the world only to have it cheapened by capitalism.
Art has power. It has life. Respect it. If you don’t, the serenity you wolfishly devour will sour and poison your stomach. Your passion will go to rot, and all meaning will evaporate. Ha. Silly, extreme sentiment, but how can I not be swayed by such a hyperbolic presentation?
Velvet Buzzsaw hits Netflix on February 1st, and I’ve immediately had to rearrange my life to make sure I catch it as soon as humanly possible.