Monday, January 3, 2011

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Initially Published Here

Street Artist Banksy has created the great cinematic 'Whatsit?' of 2010. Ostensibly a documentary about street artists as captured by an amateur filmmaker, Exit Through the Gift Shop becomes increasingly more convoluted as its tale unwinds. Thierry Guetta is a Frenchman living in Los Angeles who obsessively documents his every waking moment with a video camera. This leads to him filming his cousin, a street artist who goes by the name Invader. Invader puts his cousin in touch with other artists who tag public spaces in an effort to create ephemeral, populist art. This leads to the legendary British tagger Banksy who allows Thierry to film his clandestine art attacks across Britain and the US. But when it becomes apparent that Theirry doesn’t have the first idea how to compile his footage into a film, Banksy encourages him to make his own street art instead. And that’s when you begin to question whether or not everything you are watching is a put-on.

My two cents? Yeah, it is a put-on (for the most part), but a brilliant one at that. And if Banksy manages to garner a Best Documentary award for his elaborate fiction, more power to him. The film is as compulsively watchable and fun as the art scene that it illuminates. And like the art itself, the film leaves you with much to think about after you’ve glided over its smooth, neon-colored surfaces. And while the film is your standard issue shot-on-video release, Oscilloscope has done a nice job with its inventive packaging (postcards, paper sunglasses, etc.). It only seems fitting given the subject matter.

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