EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP
You can watch the trailer here
Those of you looking for a film about the famous (or should I say infamous?) street artist Banksy will probably have to wait a little bit longer... well, basically for the rest of your lives. I say this because, although from watching the trailer and seeing that the film is "directed" by Banksy himself, Exit Through the Gift Shop actually takes a look at a completely different artist while showing the history and the growth of street art itself.
Thierry Guetta, more commonly known as Mr. Brainwash, is the real subject of this documentary. The film revolves around his obsession with filming every piece of his life (the psychological reasons for this are given in quite the emotional manner), and we see Thierry fall in love with the concept of street art during a vacation to his native France. After being introduced to the art form by his cousin (known as Invader), Thierry drives his obsession towards filming street artists in the process of making their masterpieces. He follows droves of artists under the pretense that he is creating a documentary about street art, becoming friends with such prominent artists as Shepard Fairey (now famous for creating the Barack Obama "HOPE" poster) and the all-too-elusive Banksy, whose political artwork has caused controversy around the world. When Banksy tells Thierry that it's time to put his documentary together, he does so with disastrous results. Banksy tells him to go make his own art while he takes the time to put the film together, and the audience watches as Thierry makes a name for himself by breaking all the rules of a culture without rules.
(To be honest, I never would have heard about this film had it not been for NetFlix. I know I've been championing them quite a bit as of late, but if you haven't signed up for a membership, get on that right away. It'll open the doors to a world of film that you'd probably never see otherwise.)
It's interesting to see this in-depth look at street art, especially since it involves some of the most prominent names in that area. The audience gets a behind-the-scenes look at the process of making some of the art (especially from Banksy's perspective), and all the while, we see the wheels turning inside Thierry's mind as he plans and creates his own pieces that bring people in droves to Los Angeles to see his ultimate gallery. I think a lot of credit has to go to whoever edited this film simply for finding effective and lasting images from all of Thierry's movies. Like I said, the man filmed everything in his life, and he had boxes and boxes and boxes of film that probably comprised thousands of hours of run-time. Whoever went through it all and made a legitimate documentary out of the chaos should be applauded and awarded.
Despite this, the film really rests on the charm and the energy that Thierry Guetta brings to the table. Had he not been as engaging, the movie would have been good at best, giving a nice look at a very different type of subculture. However, the eccentricities and the manic energy that we see from Thierry makes us want to love him and hate him and applaud him and ridicule him all at the same time. Part of me wanted him to enjoy lavish success for all that he had accomplished, but another side of me wanted him to crash and burn for standing on the shoulders of giants. If that doesn't make sense, then you'll have to watch the film.
In writing this review, I've also come to a bit of a revelation about the film that, with more thought, may make me push its grade a little bit higher. In the movie's final scene, we see Thierry spray-painting the phrase "life is beautiful" - which was also the name of his gallery - onto the remains of a brick wall standing in what looks to be a junkyard but could just be an empty lot. As he walks away, the screen cuts back to the wall which is subsequently toppled by a bulldozer hiding behind it. Then the film ends. Now, I may be reading into this way too much, but it just hit me that perhaps that scene reflects the entire context of the movie as well as life itself. It's as if to say that yes, life is beautiful, but life is also fleeting, much like street art. For all the work put into the craft, street art rarely lasts a night or two in today's society, making it a momentary wonder. Sure, you can see it on the Internet all the time, but to see it in person is something of a rarity considering how quickly officials will remove it. This is the reason that people like Shepard Fairey and Banksy were so keen to have a documentary about their work because it would leave a lasting impression for a piece of art that does not last. So maybe the film (and street art in general) are really telling us to appreciate what's right before us in the moment because we never know just when it will disappear.
Just something to think about, I suppose.
Movie Review Summary:
Current All-Time Rank: Best - #142
Addition to Awards
2010: 1 nomination