"Exit Through the Gift Shop" review
On his morning drive through monotonous rows of buildings and cars, a young man notices something looming overhead. Leering through his window is an enormous rat holding a paintbrush exclaiming, "I'm out of bed and dressed - what more do you want?"
Fortunately it is not some mutated, Godzilla-esque creature that has found its way into the city, but the work of infamous graffiti artist, Banksy.
But for those looking for a glimpse of Banksy's face or a clue to where you can find him next, the film "Exit through the Gift Shop" will not satisfy you.
Those seeking an informative, comedic, behind-the-scenes look at the street art movement and some of its biggest players will find that the documentary delivers.
In the film, a hooded figure who claims to be Banksy explains the original concept for the film. It was supposed to be a street art documentary by French-born filmmaker Thierry Guetta. The tables are turned, however, and the subject of the film quickly becomes Guetta himself.
Guetta is a stout man with fire in his eyes and nonsense spouting from his mouth, traits that cause most people to label him as clinically insane. He spent most of his days filming every moment of his life.
After a chance encounter with his cousin, now known as the mosaic street artist Space Invader, Guetta's camera was suddenly turned away from his everyday life and onto the guerilla urban artwork of his cousin and the streets abroad.
Thrown into a world of public artistic expression that fully welcomed his obsessive lifestyle, Guetta began spending days and nights filming different graffiti artists of the Los Angeles area.
Guetta eventually met Shepard Fairey, the man behind the stylized portrait of Andre the Giant commanding the people to "Obey." Fairey took him through the steps of wheatpasting, stenciling and repetitive sticker placing throughout the city.
After almost eight years of filmed footage, it was time for Guetta to create the film that Banksy had originally pitched. Unfortunately, Guetta was anything but a productive filmmaker. Instead, Guetta got two of the most influential people on the scene to vouch for him, and replaced his camera with a spray can. He enlisted a few other talented artists to mass-produce the work for him, while he collected the royalties.
Although the film can be seen as a triumphant exposé of Guetta selling out as an artist, filmmaker and friend Banksy's true intended purpose for the film may not have been that straightforward.
In the film, Fairey and Banksy comment on the fact that Guetta had removed himself from any part of the street art world that produced art for the sake of art. Rather, they imply that Guetta did not acquire his success single-handedly or from the ground-up as legitimate artists do. They insinuate that Guetta exploits a once in a lifetime chance to ride-along with some of the most privatized artists in the scene.
Based on Banksy's history of pranking the public, it seems like this film could be a step up from his typical pastings on street walls.
The movie serves to inform people who misinterpret the art of graffiti as ignorant vandalism. The footage presented in the film, regardless of the intent by which it was captured, can be used to enlighten those who want to discover more about evolving street art and learn how graffiti artists started and where they are going.