Thursday, June 10, 2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Well, here’s something new. Several years ago, obsessive filmographer Thierry Guetta began documenting street art with his crappy home video camera. He taped any and everything, slowly building a name for himself within the super secret sect of street artists. With promises to soon release a feature length film of what he had captured, artists let Guetta tape their works, no matter the risk.

After thousands of hours of taped footage, Guetta finally made his way to Banksy, one of the most notorious street artists that’s ever lived. The intensely private Banksy was weary of Guetta and his obsessive, borderline annoying habits, and after a few years of Guetta following him around, Banksy demanded to see a rough cut of Guetta’s film.

Six months later, Banksy viewed a nearly unwatchable account of Guetta’s time as a documentarian. The film, which is like a 90 minute music video on crack, was nothing short of a disaster. So, Banksy decided to turn the tables on Guetta and make a documentary of his own. The result is the evolving and intriguing Exit Through the Gift Shop.

“I thought Thierry was a more interesting person than myself,” says Banksy on camera, cleverly shadowed in a hoodie in order to keep his anonymity. Essentially, Guetta gave Banksy all his hours of footage and Bansky made something useful out of it. But what develops is not only a rousing history of street art, but a window into a tortured man’s soul.

After he failed as a filmmaker, Guette quickly went into creating high-level street art. He wanted to put on the biggest exhibition L.A. had ever seen. The result was a financially pleasing display of, mostly, overworked garbage that had several notable street artists scratching their heads. Why do people like this shit? And more importantly, why are they paying thousands of dollars for it?

Exit Through the Gift Shop may not be the most thrilling movie of the year (it slugs on in the middle), but it is a unique look at an underworld most of us know nothing about. Oh, and did I mention it’s hilarious? Near the end of the film, through all his puzzlement over the success of Guetta, Banksy slyly remarks that, “I used to encourage every single person to create art. Now… well… I just don’t do that anymore.”

I’m curious to see if Exit Through the Gift Shop gets any awards attention. How would an anonymous director accept an award for Best Documentary? B+

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