Exit through the Gift shop
One of the most renowned street artists in
the world, elusive Bristol native Banksy (real name unknown) has
travelled an extraordinary journey from teenage tagger to gritty,
non-conformist darling of the art establishment.
Voted Art’s Greatest Living Briton in a
2007 ITW poll, Banksy’s individual works have sold for over US$500,000
and been exhibited in galleries all around the world. His illegal
street stencils blur the boundaries between vandalism and art, and have
prompted heated debate between local councils and enthusiasts who
consider the works a prized addition to the urban landscape. Many of
the exceedingly valuable stencils have been almost immediately removed
or painted over with a number of councils refusing to allow ‘graffiti’
of any nature, regardless of the proponent’s notoriety, to besmirch the
walls and buildings of their particular borough.
Now turning his hand to filmmaking, the man
with the golden touch emerges with Exit Through the Gift Shop, a
rapturously received gem of a film that once more has critics wondering
whether they’re in on the joke, or the butt of one.
The film purports to tell the story of
Thierry Guetta, an eccentric vintage clothes dealer with the unusual
hobby of obsessively filming the day to day minutiae of his life.
Through his cousin, French street artist Space Invader, Guetta was
introduced to many leading figures of the French underground art scene,
filming, of course, a number of their nocturnal exploits. They found
they liked having him around and other street artists expressed a desire
that their work, impermanent by its very nature, be captured on film for
some sort of posterity.
Over the course of the next few years
Guetta filmed almost all the leading figures of the street art movement,
except one: the notoriously elusive Banksy. When the two finally did
meet it was something of a quasi-religious experience for the Frenchman,
who clearly revered and idolised the reclusive Brit. Commissioned by
Banksy to turn his thousands of hours of footage into a usable
documentary, Guetta returned with ‘Life Remote Control,’ an unwatchable
90-minute visual freakout with no narrative or cogent structure
whatsoever. Belatedly realising Guetta was no filmmaker Banksy decided
to have a go at producing a film himself. Needing Guetta occupied, he
ordered him to take a six month break from filming in order to focus on
creating some art of his own, perhaps even holding small exhibition at
Guetta took the directive to heart, and not
wishing to disappoint his hero promptly set off on a course that no one
could have expected. He remortgaged his house and sold whatever
possessions he could in order to finance his own studio and a full time
staff. There he held court like Andy Warhol at his Factory, issuing
commands, commissioning projects and leaving the actual execution to his
underlings. Now going by the moniker ‘Mr Brainwash’ Guetta then held an
enormous, much-hyped and decidedly garish exhibition at an abandoned
television studio in Los Angeles. Had Banksy created a monster, or was
the entire process the natural culmination of Guetta’s many years spent
at the service of other artists?
No matter how you choose to look at it,
Exit Through the Gift Shop is a thought-provoking, subversive and
hugely entertaining viewing experience. Whether it’s a hoax or a true
to life visual document has been the subject of, as usual, much debate,
but the end product is truly riveting. Either way it’s a yet another
triumph for the satirical, pseudonymous graffiti Master.
Audio & Video
The handheld footage necessarily varies in
quality, given the illicit nature of the acts being filmed, but picture
quality is strong throughout and the transfer is excellent. The English
5.1 surround soundtrack is likewise largely faultless.
A couple of crackers on offer, including
the never before seen Life Remote Control ‘documentary’ and
B-movie, a 13-minute short film about the art of Banksy. There are
also a handful of deleted scenes, a souvenir sticker pack and a pair of
‘special non-functioning 2D glasses’ that live up to their description.