Sunday, 21 March 2010
Exit Through the Gift Shop - Review
The street art movement of the past two decades is something I would never pretend to be an expert of, though eye catching, it just never interested me. That said, even people with the most basic of knowledge, such as myself, are at least aware of the artist known simply as Banksy.
Admittedly when I first heard that the iconic graffiti artist had produced a documentary on the subject, my eyes failed to light up and really take notice - hence why this review is slightly later than usual. After watching Exit Through the Gift Shop though, my attention might just have been caught...
The film begins with the obsession of Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant in Los Angeles, who became fascinated by street art and spent years filming the art and its creators. The twist in the tale comes when Banksy turns into the film-maker, while Guetta decides to become an artist, under the name Mr. Brainwash.
What immediately caught my eye was that the film felt more like a 'mockumentary' than a serious documentary showing the hidden beauty and eloquence of the urban art form. Banksy has had huge criticism from purists over the years for effectively 'selling out' and the impression I got from Exit Through the Gift Shop was; the film was his attempt of getting his own back and poking fun and summing up the complete absurdity of the art world in its enterity.
The complete absurdity in question is channelled through the unbelievable Thierry. He is to the street art world, what Spinal Tap was to heavy metal. As soon as the film ended I actually had to go home immediately and look up his website under his MBW identity because I thought he was some genius comedy actor taking the piss - he still may be? Banksy and his peers/colleagues reflective contribution to the creation of this street art monster was enlightening, their demeanour dry and the timing equally as humorous. Having Rhys Ifans provide the narration added an extra layer of authenticity to the viewing experience.
Perhaps being a novice to this world, I found the film visually a treat. Experiencing some of these wonderful works of art for the first time was a genuine joy that made me smile and awe in wonder. Banksy succeeded making more than just a cinematic art exhibition, by actually telling a story of the inexplicable rise of Thierry and his MBW persona from a mild mannered follower of the movement through family and friends, to defying logic and becoming Banksy's right hand man in the United States - the scene in Disneyland is quite priceless - then through some playful innocent encouragement from his new mentor and other peers who Theirry followed through the years documenting their footage he created his own identity on the street art stage.
If I didn't research the final part of the film afterwards I would find it really hard to believe it actually happened, proving an age old saying that there is very little people on our beautiful planet who don't have at least one crazy story to tell in their lives.
Exit Through the Gift Shop is an honest and extremely humorous exploration into the art world, its ultimate highs, and its shameful lows. Combining glorious imagery with some moments of genuine comedy gold and a wonderful soundtrack makes Banksy's first journey into the cinematic world a successful one. Thierry Guetta is a person who has to be seen to be believed, is he a genius? Or simply an idiot? Is he even real?! This debate looks set to go on long after this film has been and gone in film theatres. Essential viewing for all!
See This If You Liked...
Spinal Tap, Factory Girl, Enter the Art World
Exit Through the Gift Shop is in selected arthouse theatres now.
Suggested reading :: In the film Mr Brainwash's infamous debut exhibition "Life is Beautiful" is the lead feature in LA Weekly, here is that aforementioned article, tis worth a read :: http://www.laweekly.com/2008-06-12/art-books/mr-brainwash-bombs-l-a/