Desktop sent two of its bloggers John Raptis and Gerard Elson to the media preview of what has been described as the world’s first street art disaster movie, Banksy’s Exit Through The Gift Shop. Here is what they thought;
JOHN: Well after conquering the street-art world and practically becoming a household name the world over, it wasn’t long before the legendary Banksy would try his hand at film. Banksy’s Exit Through The Gift Shop is his first foray into celluloid and like all things Banksy – the film is shrouded in mystery, intrigue and probably leaves the viewer asking more questions than having them answered.
Two of us Desktop bloggers were fortunate enough to see a special screening last night and I must say, I did enjoy the film.
For me, being a fan of the street art ethos – it was great seeing the who, what, where and why of artists such as Shepard Fairey, Invader and of course – Banksy in the first half of the movie but it all took a strange turn towards the middle…
GERARD: Strange is right! Which brings us to the amiable enigma at the centre of Exit Through the Gift Shop: Theirry Guetta, AKA Mr Brainwash.
From the out, we’re told the film has been assembled from unpolished footage captured by Guetta, an obsessive dilettante videographer and burgeoning street art enthusiast. Ingraining himself into the furtive world of street art by virtue of sheer persistency, Guetta, with thousands of hours of video committed to tape and unparalleled access to the artists themselves, vows to make the definitive street art documentary. But one elusive subject remains beyond his grasp: Banksy.
In a twist of fate that might be too neat to be true, Guetta miraculously finds himself playing chaperone/documentarian to Banksy during the artist’s trip to LA. The pair form a mutual trust—Banksy even calls it a friendship—but it’s not long before Guetta begins to show his “true” colours, and it’s here where Exit Through the Gift Shop gets really interesting…
JOHN: And therein the Banksy modus operandi is in full force for all to see. That is, if we just scratch at the surface that little bit. Surely this is all another Banksy ruse. Another Banksy stunt. Is Guetta/Mr Brainwash doing just that on the unsuspecting public? Are we to believe that this bumbling, clumsy documentarian is let in deep within the Banksy inner sanctum and in time, become an artist in his own right?
GERARD: And that’s all part of the film’s enormous appeal. If everything is to be taken at face value, we’re given a hugely entertaining portrait of a restless soul whose proximity to true talent in the form of Banksy impels him to reach beyond his own means in a facile pitch for credibility, desecrating in the process the very philosophies that power the artists he’s so long admired. Ostensibly, Guetta and his ill-earned, overnight success is totemic of the increasing commodification of the once galvanising voice of the fringe. On the other hand, if Guetta and his success as Mr Brainwash is indeed a ploy orchestrated by Banksy, then Exit, by my count, tips into the realm of out-and-out greatness. It becomes a scathing satire of our communal lust to lionise the individual prodigy, as well as a facetious critique of people’s unthinking readiness to buy whole-hog into the hype machine.
JOHN: Banksy has stood out from the pack because underneath the legality and criminality of one taking a brush to a public space – his work is incredibly smart, succinct and cuts to the bone of the mundane and drab walls he paints on. It is that nouse and sublime smarts which leads me to firmly believe that Banksy’s finest creation is Thierry Guetta himself. And who can really tell how long this creature will be left to roam the streets of LA. Guetta is nothing more than an inspired forgery, just like Banksy’s Princess Diana £10 notes.
Exit Through The Gift Shop is a thoroughly entertaining voyeuristic look into the world of an artist that TIME magazine lists as one of the 100 most influential people alive today. The veil of mystery is always omnipresent and deep and one can’t help but feel that Banksy has pulled the wool over our eyes once again.
I don’t know about you Gerard, but I enjoyed every single minute of this supposed expose. Whether what unfolds before us is real or not, seems to be beside the point. We are presented with a multi-faceted work that could very well stand-alone as yet another Banksy piece of art (albeit in celluloid form) or as a very real documentary that once can take and accept at face value.
Brilliant! 4 stars from me!
GERARD: It seems the only thing we (slightly) disagree on is the extent to which we enjoyed this. As far as I’m concerned, this is the comedy to beat in 2010 – no other film has made me laugh harder this year – and its wealth of genuine cultural insight, factual line-blurring and agile use of subversive wit to underscore its very pertinent point make it that rarest of things in the internet age: a cinematic Trojan horse. It’s not often you leave the cinema flummoxed as to the extent of the authenticity of what you’ve just seen, and for pulling off that particular prestige, I award Exit Through the Gift Shop its extra half star.
4.5 from me!
Exit Through The Gift Shop is showing at selected cinemas Australia-wide from June 2nd. See here for cinemas and dates.