Friday, May 7, 2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop- He said

“Exit through the Gift Shop” is movie that isn’t quite a movie but much more. Depending on who you ask, it is either a film by the enigmatic street artist Banksy, or it’s a Charlie Kauffman-esque, meta commentary on the state of art and its culture. I must admit that the film was one of the most entertaining and inventive pieces of cinema I have had the pleasure of seeing. The fact that anyone that has ever cared about any form of art NEEDS to see this film.

The movie follows Thierry Guetta, the eccentric owner of a “vintage” clothing store in one of the hippest parts of LA. He has the most ridiculous moustache that I’ve seen in a long time. He constantly carries a camera around with him in order to capture all of life’s precious moments. This turns into a creative endeavor when he is introduced to street art by his cousin, Space Invader. When he returns home, he seeks out other street artists and starts to follow and communicate with some of the more famous ones in the scene, such as Shepard Fairey, for a supposed documentary about street art.

Eventually he meets Banksy, who is a famously reclusive street artist that has painted street art all over the world. Banksy decides that Thierry is more interesting of a subject for a movie than he was, so the movie becomes about the man, Thierry, trying to make a movie. It’s at this point that the movie becomes more about Thierry’s quest to become a street artist himself at the behest (and annoyance) of Banksy. This is partly due to the fact he had years of raw and unorganized footage from his time filming artists, and the fact that his documentary was incomprehensible. Starting from the creation of a sticker in his own image to the opening of his art show in LA, we see Thierry’s quick rise in fame

As a “documentary”, Exit through the Gift Shop is a well-paced with an entertaining story, as well as a good introduction to the new sort of art form that not many people know about. But the movie really works well as the commentary on art itself. Seeing as how there has been speculation, since the movie was released, that Banksy created all the works of art that were credited to Mr. Brainwash (MBW), aka Thierry. And Thierry just pretended to be MBW as a part of an elaborate years long prank. Whether you believe that theory or not is up to you.

This is the part of the movie that is brilliant to me; it spends the first half of the movie showing you street art, and then it bastardizes the movement in the last half. Thierry Guetta is not a person; he is a symbol about all the bull (shit) that goes into art and what happens when it goes wrong. Beginning with his first sticker, he creates nothing original. It is a picture of him holding a camera symbolizing the narcissistic tendencies of a lot of artists in all forms of media. In the events leading up to the opening show of his gallery, he buys an art house factory with hired guns photoshopping and helping with the creation of his art, and most of it, which is repetitive and horribly colored (and unless I’m missing something) says absolutely nothing. This is a great contrast to the works of Shepard Fairey and Banksy, who all have done something to speak about social equality and peace with their works. Instead Thierry makes Spock look like Madonna.

As the deadlines for his big show approaches, Thierry asks Fairey and Banksy for quotes to help hype up his show. He becomes one of those eccentrics that you see in the reality TV shows. He has no vision or creativity instead he chats with the TV crews instead of setting up his own gallery. He becomes a super famous artist, but has not had to establish a reputation, which is unorthodox even in the world of street art. One of the most cringe worthy moments was when all of these LA’ers were being interviewed about the exhibit, and they talked about the greatness that was MBW, and how he is innovative. These people obviously had no clue what they were talking about. It’s something that happens to all forms of art, you have the types are there to see and be seen.

For all of the ranting on my part, this movie actually brings about a lot of healthy discussion amongst people. Whether they believe that the whole movie is a prank, or that maybe the prank is that people believe the movie itself is a prank. Who knows? Banksy obviously knows the art of satire and social commentary. Even seen as a simple documentary about art gone wrong, it still is a hilarious and engaging story that won’t leave you bored.

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