• gerard van weyenbergh

Netflix movie: Velvet Buzzsaw, a good art movie?

Jake Gyllenhaal, Toni Collette, John Malkovich… It is with a five-star cast that Netflix is ​​producing its first contemporary art film: Velvet Buzzsaw. Its synopsis is also compelling: in Los Angeles, a mannered critic, a voracious gallery owner, and an unfriendly wannabe discover the posthumous work of a marginal artist. The artworks (in reality crusts) then attract all kinds of envy and gradually reveal their deadly power. Described as a contemporary art thriller, the film had something to dream about. He is, in fact, a flop: far too bland and suspenseful to belong to the horror genre; too boring and conventional to be a complete satire. But let's not take away from this production with big strings its main asset: to be entertaining. It is so kitsch and follows the clichés of the genre so much (without being scary) that it turns out to be quite funny.

The vitriolic portrait of the art world is indeed rather successful. The director, Dan Gilroy, hits the nail on the head when he emphasizes the prevailing careerism, the marriage of public and private interests, the authority of art advisors, the indecency of the market, competition between galleries, the difficult end of his career as an artist. Even so, Velvet Buzzsaw hardly deviates from the normal pad. After the films Nocturnal Animals, My Worst Nightmare, The Square, or The Price of Everything, the film represents the art world in the tradition of its predecessors, namely as an environment spoiled by money, cynicism, and perversion. Contemporary art here is a big masquerade, an aberration. It is a reality - in some cases - but it hides the tip of the iceberg. When it enters the mainstream sphere, the art world does not enjoy a good image. And this is very unfortunate because received ideas are being reinforced. The small galleries that go into debt, defend a scene, a certain idea of ​​art, the struggle of artists linking up odd jobs, the passion that drives professionals, the hope of inventing possible worlds, the sacrifices, the doubts. All this is also contemporary art, but these themes are rarely discussed, except perhaps in the biopics of dead artists.