Running time: 87 minutes
Release Date: June 4-14 exclusive season
Exit through the Gift Shop is Banksy’s first and last film if you are to believe in the man himself and after watching this you many not be sure of what to believe in! Banksy is famous British street artist known for his graffiti styled pranks tinged with political commentary. This may be his biggest and best prank to date. Narrated by Welsh actor Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill) it follows the story of French immigrant Thierry Guetta, Los Angeles clothing store owner, who lives his life through the eye of a video lens. He starts with recording the banality of his everyday family life but after conveniently meeting his cousin, who happens to be graffiti artist Space Invader, he turns his camera to documenting the street art scene. This brings him in contact with Shepard Fairey who created the iconic “hope” poster used in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Fairey and Guetta soon become partners in crime with Guetta acting as location spotter and lookout which provides some highly entertaining scenes.
After filming several street artists Guetta is keen to film the most sought after, Banksy, but fails in his attempts to find the elusive artist. Then in a thinly disguised plot line Banksy suddenly contacts Guetta for the apparent reason of finding the best posting places in LA for his coming visit. Here the credibility of it being a real documentary takes a serious dive as Banksy’s previous work have indicated that he enjoys complete artistic control which would include choice of location in making his socio-political statement. The farce continues as Banksy on viewing Guetta’s film footage declares it is so bad that he must take over, and Guetta should dabble in art instead. However it is not convincing why Banksy would do this and why Guetta would just turn over control of his one true love. After the camera is turned onto him, Guetta surprisingly and suddenly turns from an abysmal filmmaker to creative genius, Mr Brainwash. His first exhibition of Warhol styled send ups is an instant financial success on the wheels of a well oiled publicity campaign despite his lack of street credibility.
It’s not a documentary if it’s a fake and it can’t be a Mokumentary as the manifestation that is Mr Brainwash exists though I suspect it is probably more Banksy than Guetta. Where better to film a fake than in the capital of fakeness and the publicity hype machine than Los Angeles. That aside does it really matter whether it is fraudulent or not? Probably not as it still is an excellent satire on the commercialization and mass consumerism of art hence the title “Exit through the gift shop” as a dig on the money making push of museums exiting through the gift shop to buy mini fakes of the real thing. The pace is snappy and sharp in this short film of 87 mins so many won’t even notice the minor holes in the story, making it easy to be swept along and engrossed in its social opinions. The film works very well and is highly entertaining on many different levels whether you chose to view it superficially or attempt an anatomical dissection. The non stop farcical elements don’t allow you to pause for breath with Banksy poking fun at all of us and not just the herd mentality of the mass consumer brainwashed by the marketing machine that is branding. The use of Warholesque branding just makes it that much more poignant and whether intentional or not even Banksy gets away unscathed in this damning commentary. Highly recommended viewing even if you have never heard of Banksy or have the slightest interest in street art there is something there for everyone and hours of post filmic conversation and debate.
4 / 5 stars