Monday, August 15, 2011

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Directed by Banksy.
2010. Rated R, 87 minutes.
Thierry Guetta
Space Invader
Shepard Fairey
Rhys Ifans
Deborah Guetta

For all of his adult life Thierry (pronounced Terry) has carried around a video camera and filmed everything he came across. To say he was obsessed with the activity is an understatement on the level of saying the sun is kind of warm. By chance, he meets and latches on to a street artist named Space Invader. Invader’s specialty is putting up characters from the iconic video game on any surface he could get to and get away with around Los Angeles. Thierry tags along on Invaders excursions with the camera always rolling. Through Invader, Thierry starts meeting all sorts of street artists, some would call them vandals. He becomes entrenched in their community, allowed to film them constantly. Eventually, his new obsession of recording as much street art as possible takes him around the world. It also puts him on a collision course with Banksy, the most notorious and mysterious street artist in the world. With this and the mound of footage he’s amassed Thierry decides he’s going to make a documentary. Exit Through the Gift Shop is not that movie. In essence, this is a documentary about a documentary no one has ever seen. It’s also about what happens to Thierry after it becomes apparent he’s no documentarian. I realize that sounds ominous, but it’s not like that at all. Thierry’s life is a fun and amazing journey. The question is: is what happens to Thierry good for his beloved street art and what does his experience say about it?

Exit is intriguing, funny and cautiously triumphant. It’s also visually captivating watching thes guys take a guerilla style approach to getting their work seen. Fans of graffiti, of which street art is a direct descendant, will thoroughly enjoy this aspect. Once Banksy is introduced, what we see is not only candy for our eyes, it offers food for thought. The artist himself is a shadowy and compelling figure. However, Thierry is the unquestioned star. He has fun talking. We have fun listening.

If there is a major flaw in Exit, its that it brings up the tough questions then sidesteps them. We never really get a serious discussion on whether or not street art is actually art. We don’t find out about the current state of the relationship between Thierry and the street art community. Is he an artist? What about the effect all of this has had on his wife and children whom he spent many nights away from on what appears to be a fruitless endeavor. All of these things are touched on, but not delved into. This is much more about Thierry’s account, as well as of those who were there, of how he arrives at the place we meet him. If you’re looking for a seious meditation on street art or a chronicling of its history, don’t look here. If you want a fun time, an interesting story and to see some cool stuff then Exit Through the Gift Shop.

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