Certain artworks, like the frenetic scrawlings of Francis Bacon or Francisco Goya's cannibalistic Black Paintings, shed light on the darkness hidden in the human soul. But what if that inner darkness were to escape and wreak havoc beyond the frame? That seems to be the premise of Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy's new Netflix film starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Velvet Buzzsaw.
Gyllenhaal plays Morf Vandewalt, a deliciously spot-on caricature of an eccentric, hoity-toity art dealer. In a trailer Netflix dropped Thursday, he joyously critiques a mirrored ball and a grotesque animatronic sculpture—potential digs at big-name artists Anish Kapoor and Jordan Wolfson—for being uninspired. Then he comes across a body of brutal paintings salvaged from the hotel room of a man who died mysteriously and alone. They're the ultimate outsider art discovery, and he finds them "mesmeric." He concocts a scheme to get rich off the paintings with the woman who discovers them (Zawe Ashton) and another dealer (Rene Russo), which goes awry when the works seem to come alive—and bodies start piling up in the galleries where they're displayed.
"It's set in the world of contemporary art in Los Angeles, and its got a Robert Altman-like large ensemble cast," Gilroy told Business Insider in 2017. "It's got a The Player vibe to it. There's a large cast and we're moving around from person to person as we move through this world. The story is being told through these different characters."
The cast is packed with tried-and-true legends like John Malkovich, Hereditary star Toni Collette, and Gyllenhaal's Nightcrawler co-star Russo. It's also stacked with rising stars like Blindspotting's Daveed Diggs, Stranger Things's Natalia Dyer, and The Big Short's Billy Magnussen.
Velvet Buzzsaw comes off as an indictment of the well-documented corruption and snootiness of the art world—sort of like the dark comedy The Square, but bloodier. Variety described it as a cautionary tale about "big-money artists and mega-collectors who pay a high price when art collides with commerce."
The guillotine vibes are already coming through in this first glimpse of the film. Between the steamy shots of half-naked art enthusiasts in Kinfolk-worthy apartments and the subsequent images of them getting shredded by the very status symbols they collect, Velvet Buzzsaw looks cathartic as hell.
Velvet Buzzaw is set to hit Netflix on February 1, 2019.
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