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**Note - the 'Thoughts. Opinions. Extra Info.' section does go into much more detail about the film, so if you don't wish to know any real detail about what happens with those in the film then you may wish to bypass that section**
- Story -
Exit From The Gift Shop is a documentary film about street art (graffiti) that focuses on one man, Thierry Guetta, who originally was going to make the film in the first place but his background and story became more interesting so the film ended up being about him as much as being made by him and also it documents Banksy - a well acclaimed street artist and shows some of his pieces such as the damaged telephone box in London.
- Thoughts, Opinions, Extra Info. -
First off, the title may confuse you as the film has nothing to do with museums or even art galleries in the conventional sense, although its probably meant to be a hint at the fact that the urban street art that the film is about, is starting to be accepted more by society and is slowly becoming somewhat legitimate as an artform - of course such 'exhibits' shown in this film are displayed on walls, bridges, in full public view in towns and cities, not in any kind of specific art galleries, so there would be no real gift shop to walk through when leaving but I think the title is a hint or maybe even a challenge in relation to the validity of this 'art' and how its seen and appreciated by general members of the public who may witness it on their way to work and so on.
There's a sad back story relating to the cameraman and original documentary makers life, which explains his apparent obsession with recording any and everything he comes across. The apparent friendship between Banksy and Thierry is quite interesting - Thierry becomes about the only person that Banksy trusts to let in to his secretive artistic missions and we get to see Banksy as he works on some of his creations.
It discusses street arm being a form of punk, a type of rebellion, with the artists who express themselves through their work, indeed of course it shows some of the more creative and interesting pieces, at a time when it was just starting to be accepted as a legitimate artform by auction houses, one of which is shown selling a print off for over $100,000. These 'pieces' often being quite expressive, often showing people with words and phrases alongside that are quite thought-provoking, usually the image and the text being paradoxical, such as one I think of grandparents knitting jumpers that say something about thug life, things like that which may make you laugh but it might make you think as well. The film also touches on some of the more famous pieces of street art which are well known around the world, such as the famous Barak Obama 'HOPE' poster by Shepard Fairey (see:- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shepard_Fai​rey#The_Hope_poster).
There's one part of the documentary which particularly stuck in my mind, this was about one time when Banksy and Thierry attempted to create a Guantanemo bay related scene within Disneyland, which doesn't go down too well when security realise that something is afoot - the idea is interesting, although you can see why it wasn't appreciated(!).
The further the documentary goes on, Thierry takes his footage and his connection to Banksy to eventually further his own career, when he launches himself in the US with an equally elusive stage type name, which Banksy clearly wasn't too happy about, though he states himself that he's not sure he can claim that Theirry broke any known rules as such, as you could say that there's only one rule in the world of street and urban graffiti based art and that's that there are no rules but its clear that he's re-evaluated things afterwards, as you learn just before the credits roll as a final few lines of text explain what happened to some of the people featured in the documentary.
I wasn't sure whether I would find this interesting at all or a real bore, I can be a bit picky with documentaries, some I can be easily distracted from and dis-interested in but this one was probably one of the better ones. To be totally honest, I wouldn't say that I found the back story particularly exciting as such but watching footage and hearing explanations of some of the 'artwork'/pieces was intriguing. I couldn't help but feel that Thierry was possibly a bit too selfish in some respects, although there's likely selfishness in everyone that decides they want to show off their 'masterpieces' in public settings. Like is mentioned in this film, Thierry is lucky to have been able to skip many of the basic steps most such artists have to go through, in order to establish themselves and to decide on what their speciality is, so I suppose thats partly why Banksy was a bit disillusioned by what happened, Thierry using Banksy's name to make his presence felt.
I noticed that in parts the film score boosted the film, with some of the scenes showing different examples of some of Banksy's works and of other graffiti artists creations set to pieces of quite expressive music, so that helped add to the overall atmosphere of the movie.
The people mentioned are all pretty quirky and they provide their own insights into the world of street art. One of the other people featured is known as 'Space Invader', he's based in or around Paris and his particular 'thing' is placing pixellated characters from the retro video game space invaders, in random places in, of course, full public view. He (if I remember right) does this both in France and abroad and in one scene challenges a police officer at night time, when he's told that its illegal to place such things without permission.
There are plenty of shots of graffiti and pieces being created 'in motion' and inbetween such scenes are interview scenes, including those of Banksy and other people speaking to camera about their insights - in the case of Banksy, his voice is clearly changed to a more garbled voice and his face is hidden from view, to continue the mystery of his true identity I suppose (I can't say I know, or knew, a great deal about this subject area before I watched the film).
I thought the film was interesting, it lasts for 1 hour and 40 minutes which is a decent length without letting it get too 'padded' - so overall I think its a good documentary. I suppose at the end of the day, the film is about Thierry moreso than Banksy, which he may resent although he seems to also revel in his anonymity but I couldn't quite decide what to make of Thierry...one quote from Banksy featured in the film is as follows "I realized that maybe Thierry wasn't actually a film maker, and he was maybe just someone with mental problems who happened to have a camera." whether or not thats unfair, well I'll leave that to you but at least you can't say that the main people featured are dull(!).
- Would I Recommend It? -
Yes I'd recommend this, its perfectly watchable and quite interesting, some parts more so than others I suppose but I've definitely seen worse documentaries. I thought it was quite intriguing and it seems to offer a rare glimpse into a really quite secretive world, that of the urban street artist. The film tells a story and I found it quite intriguing, it didn't seem to meander or anything, so I thought it was quite good and as such I'd recommend it.
Thanks for reading my review, I hope you found it useful and thanks for all ratings and comments.
This film is a little bit different. This is essentially a documentary getting a behind-the-scenes look into the creation and application of street art by some of the most famous artists in the genre. I bought this film on a whim and knew very little about it to the point where I wasn't even sure if it was a mockumentary or not for the first few minutes.
Although Street Art is the main theme of the movie, we essential follow through the eyes of eccentric Frenchman Thierry Guetta, the cousin of the famous Space Invader street artist, who has a curious obsession for filming everything. He essentially walks around everywhere with a film camera and somehow managed to start following some very famous street artists, getting a close-up view of how they go about their work
Morally ambiguous at times, this film leaves you to make your own mind up on the merits or otherwise of street art, it does not attempt to preach nor does it attempt to ridicule, it is what it is and the raw footage that we see interspersed with interviews from Guetta, Banksy and other famous street artists, complement each other well. I don't want to give away too much of the plot since I knew nothing about this film or even about street art in generally, and found many nice surprises, not least how the movie appears to shift its focus more onto the eccentric cameraman throughout the film, adding depth to this piece.
I did feel that it started to drag a little towards the end, but overall, this was a very refreshing and interesting movie and I am glad I watched it.
Here's a curious piece for you - a documentary about street art, supposedly directed by ultra-anonymous and ultra-famous graffiti artist Banksy; which starts out as a documentary being made about Banksy by an obsessive frenchman Thierry Guetta; but turns out to be a documentary about Guetta by Banksy, using Guetta's own footage.
Confused? You won't be. You may have your own opinions on Banksy, good or bad, but it's hard to deny that the man has made an extremely assured and thoughtful film debut with "Exit Through the Gift Shop."
Like many others, I went into this documentary expecting a straightforward and self-aggrandising film about Banksy. Banksy is virtually ubiquitous these days, and I've always been unable to shake off a feeling of unease about him, and certainly have a strong ambiguity towards his work.
On one hand, I'm suspicious of his arch sloganeering and his occasional pandering to trendy political views, which can encompass anything in the scope of Banksy's anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anarchy with a very small "a" apparent worldview.
But then - there are moments when I can't help but delight at some of his images, and I prefer his less overtly political stencils, and prefer the ones where he uses the environment around him to make a visual pun - I liked the maid lifting up the wall to sweep dust underneath; or the double yellow lines that veer off the road, across the pavement and up a wall to form a flower.
So, a Banksy film. After a nice opening montage of graffiti artists doing their thing, we are introduced to "Banksy" - a guy with his face hidden in the shadow of his hoody, and a digitally altered voice. Banksy, with some degree of modesty, claims the man the film eventually turns out to be about is more interesting than him...
Thierry Guetta is a French immigrant living in LA with his wife and kids, where he makes a comfortable living running a vintage second hand clothes store.
Thierry seems an amiable, friendly type, and instantly seems comical, with his gigantic sideburns, tubby frame and silly little hat. But there is something blank about his eyes, and we soon learn Thierry has an obsession - he films his whole life with his camcorder, and stores the tapes in a haphazard collection which he never labels, let alone watches back.
Thierry's life takes a new course when he visits family in France and finds out his cousin is the street artist Invader, whose shtick is placing mosaic aliens from the ancient "Space Invaders" video game in locations around the world.
He accompanies his cousin as he goes about his nocturnal work, and is later introduced to Shepard Fairey, another street artist famous for his mock-totalitarian "Obey" campaign, featuring wrestler Andre the Giant, and the "Hope" poster for Barack Obama.
Fairey is a little puzzled by Thierry's enthusiasm and relentless filming, but finds the Frenchman a willing assistant and lookout as he goes about his work on the city's walls and rooftops. Thierry also films a number of other street artists, and announces his intention to make a documentary about Street Art. But he is missing one famous British street artist in particular...Banksy.
The two eventually meet, and the film gets stranger from there, as Thierry first completes his documentary, and then becomes a street artist himself.
By the end, the big question sticking out is - what is art? Banksy and Shepard Fairey seem slightly bitter by their hand in Thierry's eventual success as "Mr Brainwash", because they've devoted years to honing their craft while Thierry just flung a load of cash at a Warhol-like studio. But does that make Mr Brainwash's "art" any less legitimate than Fairey's or Banksy's?
The latter in particular has been provoking the "But is it art?" question for years. Banksy says at one point: "Warhol took cultural icons and repeated them until they became meaningless, but in an iconic way. Thierry made them really meaningless."
True, there is a complete witlessness to Mr Brainwash's images compared to Banksy, but both wouldn't exist without Warhol. For anyone to "get" pop art, they need to have some awareness of the culture around them, and their appreciation of the painting or image is informed by all they already know about the world around them.
Take for example Banksy's image of a policeman searching Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz", reaching for her picnic hamper, while the look on Judy Garland's face is suitably worried about what he might find. The initial juxtaposition of riot helmeted copper with "innocent" young girl from an old family movie is humorous enough; but then we also know of Judy Garland's unfortunate trouble with drugs throughout her life, which perhaps hints at what the policeman might be looking for.
Banksy, if his work isn't art, then at least it's great pop art, and falls into the same category as Chuck Jones and Terry Gilliam.
Like some of Jones' more experimental and post-modern "Looney Tunes", Banksy is aware his audience is aware of the "frame" or "canvas" he's using, which allows him to turn the meaningless (derelict buildings, shabby, peeling walls) into something meaningful.
And, like Gilliam's surreal, free association animations in "Monty Python's Flying Circus". there is a kind of nostalgic, retro conformity to the images Banksy uses for his stencils.
"Exit Through the Gift Shop" features some fine footage of street artists going about their work, often by dangerously climbing out of windows and over rooftops, and avoiding the police as they go.
It also turns into a very interesting character study of Thierry Guetta. Here's a man who films his whole life, but never watches it back. He has a normal looking wife and kids, so he can't be that crazy, but it's clear his obsessions run deep.
By the time he gambles everything he has on staging an elaborate LA exhibition, he has learned all the techniques of street art, and can produce copious amounts of images without actually having any talent or feel for the medium.
In some ways, he reminds me of Raymond Babbitt, Dustin Hoffman's autistic character in "Rain Man" - who can recite Abbott & Costello's "Who's on First?" routine perfectly, but without realizing it's actually supposed to be funny.
And the final irony of "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is people show up and pay tens of thousands of dollars for Mr Brainwash's crass, stream-of-consciousness artwork. It seems these days all you have to do is spend enough money and tell people they're looking at art for them to believe it...
Star - Banksy
Run-Time - 87 minutes
Certificate - 15
Country - USA
Awards - Oscar nomination
Year - 2010
It's noticeable that in recession modern art has lost its shock value and become all rather main-stream and safe, purely so the artists can flog it, one presumes. The corporate buyers snapping up 'Bright Pink Mop and Bucket' for their banks lavish HQ reception considered rather bad taste these days and so the modern art market has collapsed, one vulgar indulgence too many it seems. For me most modern art should quite be inserted back up the creator's backside. And for this documentary movie its just how far being the central question in this fascinating and intriguing documentary, created and directed by Banksy, the infamous graffiti artist.
Of late street and graffiti art has fallen into this lucrative and nonsense modern art market and making a nice living for the most notorious graffiti artistes, but the taggers themselves always refuting claims that they do it for the money, the point being that the subterfuge and the political statement of the work is what makes it art. They also have to pay the bills for their loft apartments and so maybe they have to produce commercial stuff for that reason. But once Banskys' installation pieces and politically and socially aware graffiti popped up around our important cities and got the art house crowd really intrigued his stuff quickly gained value, even if it was on a public toilet wall in Clapham, inspiring other noted street artists to hold shows of their own and rent galleries to shift product.
This film suggests a look at the evolution of that street art over the last decade or so, from graffiti tagging to Turner Prize, captured on the hand-held camera of eccentric Frenchman Thierry Guetta, an immigrant shopkeeper and home movie fan living in Los Angeles. Because he got all the big street art players on film his work had retrospective value and so this highly entertaining and watchable film evolved out of it, and Banksy's involvement insuring it got great publicity and an eventual Oscar nomination in the Best Documentary category last year, that nom no doubt the Academy's carrot to tempt him to reveal himself to accept the Oscar on live TV. It didn't go on to win and he didn't show up but it's absorbing and entertaining all the same.
Banksy ... Himself
Thierry Guetta ... Himself
Debora Guetta ... Herself
Monsieur Andre ... Himself
Zeus ... Himself
Shepard Fairey ... Himself
Ron English ... Himself
Caledonia Curry ... Herself (as Swoon)
Borf ... Himself
Buffmonster ... Himself
We meet Thierry Guetta, very French and a rather odd looking chap with a pot belly and sideburns, his haircut done by the council. Thierry lives in L.A with his world weary wife Deborah and two young kids, the couple running a successful fashion store. Thierry's hobby has always been to film pretty much everything and everywhere with his cumbersome on the shoulder movie camera, inviting a few choice comments and curiosity from passers by, and the occasional right hook from his subjects. One day back in 1999 he captures some graffiti artistes doing their thing and is immediately hooked on this exciting and furtive rebellion, a man called 'Space Invader' pasting up small collages of space invader faces from old Rubik Cubes his prime subject.
Making friends with people with names like Borf, Buffmonster and Zeus is not a good idea on Hollywood Blvd, but they seemed to accept him as he builds the confidence of that secretive street art community and soon their unofficial biographer, street art king Shepard Fairey having Thierry follow him around during his graffiti stunts to help him really get to know the big names on the scene. But Thierry wants to meet the main man, Banksy, but extremely hard to get hold of as the man himself wants to remain the complete rebel, incognito to all and so a true artist. But one day in 2005 our Thierry gets a phone call from Fairey in Los Angeles, wondering whether Thierry would like to be camera-in-chief for an English chap from Bristol called Banksy. Monsieur Guetta is ecstatic with the surprise call and races over to meet him, all this documented on film, of course.
As the pair learn each others confidence, convincing the graffiti legend he is a genuine filmmaker, Banksy sets about bringing his art to America, including a Guantanamo style stunt at the Walt Disney theme park that gets Thierry arrested, also caught on film.
Although Banksy can tolerate the little runt of a Frenchman he soon begins to haunt him. So Banksy decided to keep Thierry busy by instructing him to put down the camera and unpack all his boxes and boxes of footage - all 10,000 tapes and discs of it - to make a movie about the history of street art. But the project is a disaster and so the Last Exit from the Gift Shop project began, Banksy taking over directing and editing duties.
Banksy: "hmmm... You know... it was at that point that I realized that maybe Thierry wasn't actually a film maker, and he was maybe just someone with mental problems who happened to have a camera".
Down in the dumps, Thierry decides to become the frustrated artist he clearly is, throwing his heart and soul into his 'work' and becoming 'Mr Brainwash', starting to paste up his own stickers and stencils around town to announce his arrival on the scene. Thierry being Thierry doesn't do things by half, and employs lots of people to do a Warhol style production line of what he thinks modern art is, flicking through the modern art catalogue and mish-mashing it all together, even though he has no experience of 'creating'. Then, rather bizarrely, just from a single Banksy quote he uses to plug his show on the poster, Thierry starts to gets serious positive publicity from the L.A art establishment and so, just maybe, the new sensation of the modern art world has arrived, much to Banksy's amazement...
Banksy: "Most artists take years to develop their style; Thierry seemed to miss out on all those bits".
Although this film never sets out to prove whether modern art has any value or relevance or not, it does exactly that, and deliciously so in the final scenes. If the hype is laid on thick and deep enough in the arts and entertainment world people clearly will believe it and behave like sheep and go with the flow. I'm not saying Banksy is the fraud of the piece as I quite admire some of his stuff, even though most of its traced from stencils and easy to do, but the fact a little squat Frenchman can get the publicity and plaudits for what he achieves in the film raises some eyebrows. It's at this point you begin to question what you are watching even though everyone involved is tightlipped whether this is a documentary or a mockumentry. But it's crystal clear at the end of the film that modern art is only as good as its celebrated recommendations.
'Banksy' remains anonymous throughout the film under a hood for his darkened face talking head contributions in the film but has commented about the documentary (more mocumentry) in the trendy press for confirmation he was indeed behind it. But he makes it quite clear in the film (not that convincingly) that he is not comfortable with the fact his graffiti and street art has become a commodity and the exact opposite of what street art was supposed to be about, perhaps resentful of those who have accepted the big bucks and so creating work just for money, this film, maybe, his subtle opinion on that betrayal. Saying that his words and putdowns in the film feel scripted and it again pushes you towards the feeling this is a clever hoax by a clever chap. The fact some of the characters in the documentary have names like Fairey and Thierry and Caledonian Curry suggest an in-joke from frame one, enough people in the industry in on the joke and perhaps why it didn't win the Oscar. There's a telling quote from one of Banksy lackeys near the end of the film that seems to sum up the ambivalence and mischievous mystery of the film:
"I think the joke is on... I don't know who the joke's on - really. I don't even know if there is a joke".
Whether the film is a brilliant scam or not it's a clever piece of modern art its own right for that reason alone, no doubt set up by Bansky to mock the establishment he often rails against in his work. Yes the outcome of the film could have some unexpected credence to the director with the realization that anyone can indeed be famous by selling crap as art but I suspect he already knew that. What it joyously does do is exposes the pseudo posers and pretentious middle-class types that seem to see more in modern art than most, say the people who go out to work to make a living, this modern art indulgence somewhat irritating to normal people.
That aside its fascinating stuff and very funny, Thierry's bumbling filmmaker producing some Spinal Tap moments and slapstick too, plenty of falling off ladders and buckets on heads, Laurel & Hardy style. It does feel scripted and, rather suspiciously, the characters don't seem to age on screen over the 15 year timeline and you certainly can't see someone as gauche as Thierry running a ladies fashion store, unless he went into women's clothing either to wear it in his downtime or just to peep into the fitting rooms.
Like Catfish, its just one of those entertaining documentaries you should see to make up your own mind, and well worth the journey. It just gets more intriguing and layered as the climax nears and you can't help but grin at the creators for having the cheek to take you that far down the road. The fact the film director credit is Banksy does indeed suggest a 'prankumentry'. I think it's currently knocking around on Freeview if you want to save on rental fees and so no excuses not to see it now, by far one of the best documentaries this year for me.
Banksy: "Warhol repeated iconic images until they became meaningless, but there was still something iconic about them. Thierry really makes them meaningless"
Imdb.com - 8.1 /10.0(16, 458 votes)
Metacritic.com - 85% critic's approval.
Rottentomatos.com - 96% critic's approval.
CNN - "The widespread speculation that Exit through the Gift Shop is a hoax only adds to its fascination".
Film 4 - Energetic, exciting, entertaining, and at times illegal, Exit through the Gift Shop is a wicked treat.
Radio Times - "The plain fact is that, on some level, it doesn't matter whether the film is true or not. Either way, it's fascinating. Either way, we learn a lot. Either way, it's a great film"
The Denver Bugle - "A provocative and absorbing exploration of what constitutes art, the creative process and the power of hype to triumph over talent".
Our nearest cinema is a relatively small old cinema that plays independent and low budget films from around the world. It's cheap and looks more like a theatre inside, unfortunately I don't visit it as much as I would like because with it being in Warsaw, most of the foreign films are only subbed in Polish and it can be frustrating not understanding everything.
When an English language film appears, I usually jump at the chance to see it, so I was glad to find out from a friend that "Exit Through The Gift Shop" was a must-see film.
With no prior knowledge of what the film was about apart from the fact the poster had some street art on it and said "A Banksy Film", I wasn't too sure what to expect as it was to my knowledge his first venture in to film. The film is done in a documentary style and it starts off being narrated by Rhys Ifans and Banksy himself who comes across as a likeable genuine character that immediately warms the viewer to the film.
The focus is on eccentric Frenchman, Thierry Guetta, a funny looking critter with mad ideas and an infectious albeit completely mad character, it shows his obsession with the camera and how he became involved in street art, from just documenting his cousin Space Invader street stencils through to becoming an artist himself.
The film works well both as a documentary on street art in general and also about Guetta. There's lots of nice shots of good work, incidents with police and it documents nicely to just what lengths these guys will go to get their work where they want it. Both Guetta and Banksy are very entertaining in their own different ways and you can't help but like both of them.
Some of the antics that Guetta and Banksy get up to make the film interesting enough but the film is well made and it also shows how the film came about and it is funny from start to finish. Whilst Banksy is obviously the talented one, at one point he proclaims "it started off about me but ended up about Guetta because he's a much more interesting person" and it is true to some extent!
This is undoubtedly my favourite documentary of the year so far and I really recommend you take the time to watch it!