The FAM: Exit Through The Gift Shop

Welcome one and all to the Friday Afternoon Movie for this, the day after St. Patrick’s Day, 2011. Exciting. Today the FAM presents Exit Through The Gift Shop the 2011 Oscar Nominee for Best Documentary directed by street artist Banksy that is probably not a hoax but could be. Maybe. Who knows. It doesn’t really matter.

The film follows the exploits of one Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant who runs a vintage clothing store in Los Angeles. He also has a habit of filming everything and everyone he sees with his video camera. On a trip to France he discovers that his cousin is a fairly well-known street artist, who goes by Invader. Guetta falls in love with the medium and begins to film a vast network of artists, telling them he is making a documentary. This eventually leads to him meeting the enigmatic Banksy, which eventually leads to Guetta becoming an artist in his own right, calling himself Mr. Brainwash.

Exit Through The Gift Shop impressed me most in how it was able to change, almost effortlessly, my perception of it’s subject. The first three quarters of the film really felt laced with narcissism, which I admit may not be entirely fair. I often find it hard to separate the artist from his art, which is to say that, if in a film by Banksy, the narrator of said film refers to Banksy in some hyperbolic way in regards to his fame and acumen, I can’t help but think that Banksy knew that was going into the movie. He may have written it himself. That kind of thing rubs me the wrong way. It may not be true, it may not have been the intent, but it struck me that way.

Guetta’s overnight success, seemingly built on the works and words of the people he was filming, then eclipses any of that in the last quarter. He emerges from the other end of Exit… as a fraud and a con man, quite the journey from the likeable, if eccentric, man he starts out as. Banksy emerges as simultaneously bemused and distraught at what he has inadvertently created. It’s a trick that only works once perhaps, subsequent viewings appear littered with warning signs when forearmed with this knowledge, but I found it an extremely capable one nevertheless. Regardless of your feelings about his work, I found myself agreeing with Banksy’s opening remarks. It really is a fascinating story.

One Response to “The FAM: Exit Through The Gift Shop”

  1. Suzanne Says:

    This documentary brings the whole situation much better to the point, imo, and saves precious screen time: