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Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

May 19, 2010

7/10 Spray Paint Picassoes

Still not quite sure what to make of it all, but I know I liked it.

Exit Through the Gift Shop is a documentary about a funky Frenchman who by being in the right place at the right time finds himself smack dab in middle of the underground street art movement in L.A. and England that took off during the last decade, capturing it all on video for a supposed documentary that he might not even make because he doesn’t know the first thing about film making. It’s also about an anonymous and infamous man of mystery named Banksy – the individual at the forefront of turning graffiti into “subversive art” – and his relationship with our French camera man as they work together to show the world what street art is really all about or end up completely screwing the pooch in the process.

Now, if none of what I’ve written so far sounds the least bit interesting, click on the link below before reading further:

Awesome, right? That’s Banksy for ya’. On with the show.

So, for those of us who are somewhat familiar with the guy, there are a couple things about him that tend to stand out.

1) The dude’s super talented and can work a cardboard stencil plus a can of spray paint like you wouldn’t believe.

2) He does not like The Man.

And 3) I don’t even think his mother knows his true identity and there are maybe two individuals who are damn good at keeping a secret that actually know how he works.

In a world where you can find out anything about anyone in the blink of an eye with the help of our good friend Google, being a high-profile artist and having no one know your real name or what you look like is no easy feat to accomplish, yet somehow he does it right in front of our faces, and that is awesome.

It’s all part of the guy’s appeal and as interesting as our French street art/mutton chop enthusiast Thierry Guetta is, the real selling point of Exit Through the Gift Shop is the inside look to Banksy as person rather than Banksy as an image that we get. We still don’t get to see his face or hear his actual voice, but just seeing him at work and listening to him speak behind a muffled mic make for some really effing cool footage. It’s not often anyone ever gets to the see the artist at work, but it’s another thing entirely when the art is illegal and the artist’s m.o. is going extraordinary lengths to make sure that no one’s watching.

But the crazy thing about this movie is that some folks out there are convinced that the whole damn thing is a hoax perpetrated by Banksy himself. Knowing Banksy, I wouldn’t count it out, but the even crazier thing is that it makes the movie that much more appealing. Maybe it’s the real deal, maybe it’s a mockumentary, maybe it’s a little bit of both, but whether it’s a brilliant form of self-promotion or just a wild story about two guys that are bringing the message of street art to the masses and/or taking the first steps to being its first sellouts, it’s a fascinating little specimen to get lost in and a big part of the fun is how you interpret it.

I feel like Exit Through the Gift Shop might have a larger appeal to folks who are just being introduced to Banksy since a lot of his work will be brand spankin’ new, but for those of us who’ve spent a good twenty minutes flipping through Wall and Piece while wandering through Urban Outfitters, it’s still something else to get this behind-the-scenes look at the guy even if the amazement factor might be dwindled a smidge. I wasn’t as crazy about the final Act as I was with the rest of the movie since Banksy ends up taking more of a backseat to Thierry and his rapidly inflating ego, but that first hour is a solid 8 and I’m kind of itching to see it again.

It’s funny, it’s crazy, it’s intense, it’s incredibly interesting and even though it doesn’t create the same kind of insight into an underground culture you hardly knew existed like, say, The King of Kong did, it’ll leave its impression on you for a good while after. It’s also got a pretty kickass soundtrack, and that’s something I can always dig.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. May 19, 2010 7:19 am

    Hhaha my cousin said he knows Banksy’s brother so at least we know hes a real person. But yet, I have a feeling after this movie, a lot of people will be saying that. Nice Review!

  2. May 19, 2010 5:40 pm

    My cousin ranted and raved about this thing for ages. Kinda put me off it actually. Maybe I’ll give it a looksie on the web. Could be interesting. I do like a good doc and hype always provokes a reaction in me. I have to prove them wrong! (or not).

    • May 20, 2010 8:42 am

      Haha, it’s definitely worth checking out but lower your expectations a bit, it’s not quite the be-all-end-all doc that your cousin’s calling it. But I bet your cousin’s a great guy all the same.

  3. May 21, 2010 3:23 pm

    I’ve been dying to see this one for months!

  4. May 24, 2010 8:54 pm

    I really want to see this! I love Banksy and his work, but haven’t had time to see this. This just encourages me more to see it. Great review!

    • May 25, 2010 9:22 am

      Thanks, man. It’s definitely worth seeking out. Interested to hear your thoughts.

  5. October 28, 2010 6:19 am

    when i go to a gift shop, i always look for cute little stuffed animals and other cute stuffs`:-


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