Exit Through The Gift Shop Banksy

Exit Through The Gift Shop Banksy
Literally "outside" artist Banksy ― he of the convention-tweaking stencils, public installations and fiercely guarded identity ― has created a fascinating documentary that's simultaneously a hilarious document of an unhinged man who lucked into a career, an indictment of art world pretence and a hilarious story of the most important modern art movement in decades. It's so clever that, at times, you wonder how much of it is a construct ― a put-on just like some of Banksy's cleverest art pieces. But as the tale unfolds, its "truth is stranger than fiction" turns strike just the right chord. At the centre of the madness is Thierry Guetta, a French-born L.A. resident with a family and a clothing store; he also compulsively videotapes every moment of his waking life, to the point where no one notices the camera anymore. By hooking up with his cousin ― a street artist known as Space Invader ― Guetta becomes fascinated with street art. After a chance meeting with Shepard Fairey (Obama's "Hope" and Andre the Giant's "Obey" posters), Guetta dives headfirst into the oft-dangerous night time activities of this guerrilla art movement. Videotaping constantly, Guetta trails various artists and finds himself involved in their activities. Through these connections, he eventually reaches the holy grail of street art: Bansky. What Banksy sees that the other artists possibly haven't noticed is that Guetta is off his rocker. He never looks at any of the footage he shoots, throwing unlabelled tapes into boxes in his house. Fiercely protective of his privacy, Banksy takes Guetta's footage and turns the doc into a two-pronged attack: chronicling Guetta's crazed energy and taking advantage of the priceless footage he's captured to tell a proper history of the street art movement. When Guetta takes Banksy's suggestion to "make some art" a little too seriously, Exit Through the Gift Shop takes a truly unexpectedly odd turn, one I won't spoil here. The DVD release provides more context to the initial movie, including a 17-minute snippet of a 90-minute film that Guetta showed Banksy as his "documentary" ― it's a crazed slapdash of noise music and unrelated snippets that looks like flipping channels on a TV with bad reception. Another short actually does properly chronicle Banksy's rise in the art world. Some deleted scenes offer even more context to both the included artists and Guetta's manic energy. Exit Through the Gift Shop is fascinatingly watchable, whether it's a put-on, an art project or a true-life glimpse of an unhinged man who took street lemons and made art lemonade. (Mongrel Media)