I saw Netflix’s Velvet Buzzsaw with six or seven different film critics I know at its Sundance premiere this past Sunday, and to a person, we all began the movie with “Velvet Buzzsaw” written at the top of our notebook pages and left with the rest of the page still blank. What do you even say about this strange movie? I didn’t understand what I was watching while I was watching it and I still don’t. I’ve never seen a headscratcher quite like this one.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays an art critic named “Morf,” and if you’re like me and believe Gyllenhaal not getting an Oscar nomination for Nightcrawler is one of the greatest injustices of the century, you’d be thrilled to see him reunited here with his Nightcrawler director, Dan Gilroy. Morf has hunched shoulders, fluid sexuality, a ripped bod (“I do a lot of pilates and Pelaton”) and the uncanny ability to decide whether he loves or hates a piece of art within 10 seconds of seeing it. The opening scene takes place at Art Basel in Miami, which Morf struts into, smirking bitchily as he runs into “Hobobot,” a talking robotic homeless man with a single crutch and eerie glowing blue eyes who asks for change and says things like “I built the railroads,” in his robot hobo voice.
Hobobot is probably Velvet Buzzsaw‘s high point but it’s also representative — whatever else it is, the movie has plenty of delicious comedy nuggets embedded in it (along with craisins, Brazil nuts, thumbtacks, discarded syringes, and pencil shavings). I can’t say I entirely enjoyed Velvet Buzzsaw, but I love the idea of random Netflix users watching it and trying to figure out what the hell is going on.