Monday, September 27, 2010

Exit Through The Gift Shop

Winter is slowly winding down around here, but that hasn't stopped me getting a cold, probably because it's still been raining every day for the past month and possibly because the wife has been away on an island for three weeks and I've reverted to the unhealthy bachelor lifestyle with alarming speed. All I wanna do now is sit around, feel sorry for myself, read a big bunch of new/old 2000ads I got in the mail yesterday and wonder why the hell the new Love & Rockets hasn't shown up here yet.

Because of this, writing another meandering and pointless blog post isn't exactly a high priority right now, so I'm going to cheat, and put up a review I wrote for work a few weeks back on the excellent Banksy documentary - Exit Through The Gift Shop.

This is the face of my laziness!

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Don't worry if you walked out of Exit Through The Gift Shop feeling a little confused - that's almost certainly the filmmaker's intention.

After all, it's a documentary directed by Banksy, the street artist who made his name through secrecy, deception, and perverting cultural icons into twisted and brilliant new shapes, and this is a movie about an artform built on secrecy and deception that perverts a traditional documentary into twisted and brilliant new shapes.

The film is ostensibly the story of Thierry Guetta, a Frenchman living in LA who compulsively records his life on video camera, never leaving the house without a lens attached to his face. He eventually falls into documenting the rising popularity of street art and, through several strokes of extreme good fortune, somehow ends up being the video confidant of the world's most secretive artist.

Eventually inspired by his interactions with Banksy and other artists, Thierry takes to the street himself and becomes the focus of the film. He is inspired to actually watch some of the material he collected and eventually produces his own dubious art.

By the climax of the film, Guetta has achieved his aim of fame and fortune, with his art shows proving remarkably popular and his work gracing the cover of a Madonna album. The fact that his art is frequently actually made by other people, shows a fair lack of imagination and is greeted with caution by his more famous mates does little to stop Thierry.

Or does it? Thierry's story is just a little bit too neat. While the unlikeliest stories often do turn out to be true, his fame is just a little too ironic and fitting.

It doesn't really matter if it's fact or fiction, Exit Through The Gift Shop still manages to make a few fine points about art and perception, without ever getting boring.

It's as smart and funny as the art Banksy has splashed on walls around the world. The artist himself only appears on screen as a typically shadowy figure with a modulated voice, but still has a terrific sense of comic timing and keeps things nicely down to earth when the art talk is in danger of getting a little too pretentious.

Thierry is also a charming screen presence, playing the part of a bumbling Frenchman with a perceptive eye to perfection, while there are glimpses of genuine street artists who have pushed their chosen medium into wonderful new directions. An attempt to document some of that is always welcome, and any mind-games that come along with it are just part of the ride.

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