‘Velvet Buzzsaw:’ Money and cursed art paint a strange spectacle

A still from ‘Velvet Buzzsaw,’ now out on Netflix. (Photo courtesy: Netflix)
Updated 02 February 2019
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‘Velvet Buzzsaw:’ Money and cursed art paint a strange spectacle

CHENNAI: The art world is seedy. Money is a menace, and industry elites can be monsters. That is the overarching message to take from Dan Gilroy’s film “Velvet Buzzsaw,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 27, and had hopped over to Netflix by Feb. 1.

Gilroy made a big impression with his 2014 thriller “Nightcrawler,” which featured strong performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo. Now, Gilroy has got the band back together, but the result is decidedly less captivating than their first collaboration. Where “Nightcrawler” was comically ghoulish, “Velvet Buzzsaw” lacks humor, is uptight and, at times, borders on the bizarre.

The opening draws us into the murkiness of the art world. Critic Morf Vendewalt (Gyllenhaal), makes or breaks careers in tandem with gallery owner Rhodora (Russo) and her assistant Josephina (Zawe Ashton), with whom he is in a relationship. Money, not art, is the name of the game, but things take a turn when the trio embark on the sale of artworks which, it transpires, their dead creator had insisted be destroyed. The film then veers into a maelstrom of death and the supernatural, featuring flesh-eating sculptures and cursed paintings.

This is not a standard horror movie. Though equal parts grisly and fantastical, it is more a sadistic satire on an art industry which, beneath a veneer of culture and civilization, is toxic to its core. Artists, dealers, critics and collectors circle each other in a macabre dance of wealth, power, back-stabbing and opportunity. But such a hungry industry swallows even its own in the end, as the protagonists discover to their cost. Yet overall, this is far from a dream follow-up from Gilroy, though a strong, tense score from Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders goes some way toward redeeming the film, giving it a well-paced tempo.


Archaeologists find mosque from when Islam arrived in holy land

Updated 18 July 2019
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Archaeologists find mosque from when Islam arrived in holy land

  • Authorities estimate the mosquer dates back to the 7th to 8th centuries
  • Rare to find house of prayer so ancient whose congregation is likely to have been local farmers

RAHAT, Israel: Archaeologists in Israel have discovered the remains of one of the world’s oldest rural mosques, built around the time Islam arrived in the holy land, they said on Thursday.
The Israel Antiquities Authority estimates that the mosque, uncovered ahead of new construction in the Bedouin town of Rahat in the Negev desert, dates back to the 7th to 8th centuries.
There are large mosques known to be from that period in Jerusalem and in Makkah but it is rare to find a house of prayer so ancient whose congregation is likely to have been local farmers, the antiquities authority said.
Excavated at the site were the remains of an open-air mosque — a rectangular building, about the size of a single-car garage, with a prayer niche facing south toward Makkah.
“This is one of the earliest mosques known from the beginning of the arrival of Islam in Israel, after the Arab conquest of 636 C.E.,” said Gideon Avni of the antiquities authority.
“The discovery of the village and the mosque in its vicinity are a significant contribution to the study of the history of the country during this turbulent period.”