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No. 70 Murder Most Artful

“Didn’t even notice the thorns were real?” --- Jessica Fletcher

Have you seen Velvet Buzzsaw on Netflix? It is a campy horror film that eviscerates the pretensions and artifice of the art world and shows a deadly price paid for being an elite artistic corporate whore.

It stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, Billy Magnussen, and John Malkovich.  Not surprisingly Collette and Malkovich walk away with the movie and Russo turns in, what I think is, her most solid performance. The film’s title was the name of Russo’s character’s punk band before she sold out. The film is directed by Russo’s husband, Dan Gilroy,  who also wrote the screenplay. Gilroy is best known for creating the Jason Bourne franchise with his brother.

The plot: An artist dies. Everyone tries to cash in on his death. They all die trying.  

Women are a prominent presence in this film. The female characters are deeply flawed, complicated, and great fun to watch. And great fun to watch die. It is a horror movie after all.

My two favorite moments in the film are Collette’s character’s death and the aftermath - a true work of art. And Malkovich drawing in the sand with a stick creating a very different, almost virtuous, work of art.

If horror is not your thing, you might appreciate that those most deserving do get their just rewards in very entertaining fashion.

On a side note: Gilroy’s father, Frank Gilroy, was an American playwright who received a Tony and Pulitzer for his 1965 play The Subject Was Roses. He also published a diary as a companion to the play entitled, About Those Roses or How ‘Not’ to do a Play and Succeed.

In it, Gilroy wrote,

"The Subject Was Roses opened on Broadway with a producer who had never produced a Broadway play; a director who had never directed one; a scenic artist who had never designed one; a general manager who had never managed one; and three actors who were virtually unknown."

The play went on to run for over 800 performances and continues to be revived all over the country.

You get the sense that the Gilroy family has a healthy amount of cynicism toward the creation of vs. selling of art. Yet, somehow they’ve managed to survive the buzz-saw and find success.

If you want to go farther down the rabbit hole, this film got me wondering about true art world murder mysteries.

Center Theatre Group for their production of Adler & Gibb (About the “mysterious disappearance and subsequent unexplained death” of the artist, Jane Adler.) researched five tales of murder most artful in this article: Murder in the Art World

CTG’s article covers such mysteries as an artist who never returned from a solo sailing trip, a suspicious suicide that benefited many in the financial world, a fall from a window that might have been a push, a convenient death without a conviction, and the accidental shooting of Vincent Van Gogh.  

To quote Agatha Christie, “Very few of us are what we seem.”

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