Dan Gilroy scored a hit with his directorial debut Nightcrawler, a psychothriller that rode the captivating instability of a Jake Gyllenhaal on the edge to a handsome box-office payday, generous praise from the press, and awards consideration. His follow-up, the legal drama Roman J Israel, did… not do that. Denzel Washington earned a baffling-to-many Oscar nomination, but the critics were frosty and a lot of people lost a lot of money.
So it’s the career-smart move for Gilroy to reteam with Gyllenhaal and return to the register of hysteria for his third go in the director’s chair, the upcoming Velvet Buzzsaw. Prior to the film’s world premiere at Sundance later this month, Netflix has uploaded a surreal, horror-tinged trailer promising more of the madness that brought Gilroy to prominence.
A string of murders and more abstract acts of violence play out in the competitive art collecting circuit, a dog-eat-dog game fuelled by pretension and conspicuous consumption. Gyllenhaal portrays a collector (apparently named Morf) enamoured of newly discovered works from an unknown artist, said to have synthesized the striking reds of his paint using human blood. (Note: Gilroy purloined this from Herschell Gordon Lewis’ 1965 film Color Me Blood Red.)
Art satires can sometimes resort to easy potshots about haughtiness and obsession with status trumping actual appreciation – more facile versions of the button concluding the trailer, about a murder that accidentally goes viral when patrons assume it’s an installation. Hopefully, the throttling monkey-arms and other flourishes of insanity will set it apart from the rest of the chin-stroking pack.
Velvet Buzzsaw will arrive on Netflix in the US on 1 February.