Sunday, February 27, 2011

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Directed by renowned U.K. street artist Banksy with narration by actor Rhys Ifans. Exit Through the Gift Shop is a documentary about a French immigrant named Thierry Guetta living in Los Angeles as he documents everything about his surroundings. There, he eventually meets the secretive yet prominent street artist Banksy as the cameras suddenly turn on Guetta himself. The film is an exploration into the world of street art with other artists while it is all eventually controlled by Banksy who would try and make Guetta into a street artist of his own. The result would be one of the most fascinating films about art and how a man would become an artist of his own.

It’s 1999 as a Frenchman named Thierry Guetta is a Los Angeles native who makes a living selling vintage clothing. He’s also a man who likes to document the things in his life with a camera that often annoys his wife Debora. When he goes to France for a visit, he learns that is one of his cousins is a renowned street artist named Invader. Known for his mosaic art work based on the game Spaced Invaders, Invader’s work would lead Thierry to discover the world of street art through other French artists like Zevs and Monsieur Andre. After taking Invader to Los Angeles, another street artist named Shepard Fairey becomes Thierry’s next documentary subject.

After discovering other artists over the next few years all around the world, it is the name Banksy that Thierry is very interested in. Banksy’s art work has popped up all over Britain to lots of attention where in 2005, Banksy garnered international attention for a piece of art he made at a wall in the West Bank. With Thierry wanting to meet Banksy, he would finally meet the elusive artist a year later during Banksy’s trip to Lost Angeles. Thierry is eventually invited to London to meet with Bansky where Thierry is asked to document more of Banksy’s work in London, much to the bafflement of Banksy’s crew.

With Thierry getting full access to Banksy’s studio in preparation for an art show in Los Angeles. Thierry waits for Bansky to arrive in L.A. as he suddenly creates stickers of his own where he starts to become his own artist. With Bansky finally arriving to Los Angeles for his art show, he decides to pull a big stunt in Disneyland in response what was happening in Guantanamo Bay. Though Thierry was captured by security and interrogated, he was able to secure the footage he had filmed and got away. Though Banksy’s art show attracts a lot of attention including some surprising criticism from various organization groups.

Though the show was a success, it did create lots of attention for street art much to Banksy’s dismay due to the fact that all art was for sale. It was at that moment that Thierry had to finish the film under Banksy’s orders where the project was being edited. In the spring of 2007, Thierry arrived to London to meet Bansky with a rough version of the film then entitled Life Remote Control and the results weren’t very good. With Banksy deciding to take control of the film, he orders Thierry to put down the camera and become a street artist of his own under the name Mr. Brainwash. It is around this time that Thierry would create his own art as he would finally unveil into his own art gallery for the world to watch.

The film is about a decade in the life of a man whose interest in street art would lead him to meet one of the key figures of the street art movement and then, become an artist of his own. Yet, the film raises a lot of questions about whether Thierry Guetta’s rise as Mr. Brainwash was pre-meditated or just some lucky accident about a guy who came in at the right place and at the right time to become an artist himself?

Well, there’s never an answer whether or not this really happened. Even if its some crazy hoax by Banksy, a man who is a prankster of sorts. Yet, he is an artist that is a master in being a prankster though it’s all about the end result. With this film that was shot by Thierry Guetta, he creates an idea of what the world of street art used to be and then how it later, like all forms of art, becomes something to make money out of. Even as someone like Guetta will want to cash in on this phenomenon of street art so he can be called an artist and be successful despite the fact that his art isn’t entirely original.

Guetta is a fascinating personality of someone who could be mentally unstable, depending on who anyone asks. Yet, he’s a loveable character who starts off being a man that is interested in art into someone that becomes full of himself once he decides to become an artist. Then, there’s Banksy who is probably the most interesting figure of the film though his face is never shown. He’s interviewed with a hoodie while his face is covered and talking through a distorted voice.

Here’s a man who is probably someone who believes that art shouldn’t be commercialized but rather be a statement of one’s self. He uses his art in maybe making commentary about something that is going on with the world or something to express what he feels. Even if its satire as he also wants to profile the other street artists who used their art to express who they are. The film itself starts off as an exploration into the world of street art in the first act, the second act is Banksy and his interaction with Thierry Guetta, and the third act is Guetta becoming Mr. Brainwash.

With the help of editors Tom Fulford and Chris King along with sound editor Jack Gilles. The film captures an entire decade of work along with the fast-rapid work of Guetta’s original film Life Remote Control. The music from Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and drum n’ bass artist Roni Size plays to the chaos of the world of art with electronic pieces as well as comical accordion music for Guetta. The film opens and closes with a song by Richard Hawley while features other pieces ranging from classical to a track by the French electronic duo Air.

Exit Through the Gift Shop is an amazing, intriguing, and entertaining documentary from Banksy. Fans of the world of street art will no doubt enjoy the film about the artists and the art that is created. Even as it gives those new to that world about its importance and why some of its artists aren’t happy about the commercialization. Even as it’s a film that can be taken seriously or not taken seriously about the rise of Mr. Brainwash who could or could not be a legitimate artist. It’s a film about art and the people who create it as this film is a piece of art whether the whole thing is a hoax or not. In the end, Exit Through the Gift Shop is a superb piece of art from one of the greatest artists working today in any medium, Banksy.

© thevoid99 2011

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