Filming every waking
moment was an acceptable way of life for quirky Frenchman Thierry Guetta. After his
mother died during his eleventh year Thierry was not allowed to return home. Exit Through The Gift Shop explains that capturing the
events of his life on tape was Thierry's way of insuring that these
moments would never be lost.
Although Thierry dwells in Los Angeles a trip to his homeland finds him
video taping his cousin the street artist.
During his stay in France Thierry records his cousin creating Space Invader mosiacs. At night Thierry films a man who works while his fellow countrymen dream. Friends of the
artist known as Space Invader allow Thierry to record them hanging their
artwork. Throughout the movie the director cuts to clips of Thierry,
several artists are interviewed and you start to get a feel for what
street artists go through to have their messages displayed about town.
After returning to California Thierry meets local street artist
Shepard Fairey. Fairey's most famous piece is probably the
iconic blue and red poster of then Senator Barack Obama. In the movie Fairey is the artist responsible for the giant signs commanding the citizens of Los Angeles to Obey. When the two
men meet Shepard is photocopying a piece he plans
to display. Footage of Fairey working rolled while I started
thinking of buildings around my town and how attractive they could be to
someone with an eye and a plan.
Exit Through The Gift Shop shows Thierry and his friends being
accosted by the police. Several people are asked to remove their work,
and without actually posing the question I think the movie does a nice
job of asking the viewer to question what is art,
what is not and if defacing a building makes it
more attractive can street art be viable yet illegal? That idea ran
through my mind while Thierry Guetta was traveling around the world
chasing the ever changing, here today, gone tomorrow life of street art.
Eventually Thierry is accepted by the street art community. The
remaining holdout is an elusive Bristol resident whose work bears the
name Banksy. To
disgress a bit Banksy is intoduced as the man who hung a piece of his
own work at a museum. Flashing through his portfolio was in my opinion
one of the best parts of the movie. My
favorite Banksy piece
pictures a little girl being carried off by the bunch of balloons she
holds. Banksy chose an
unlikely location for her which is
why that particular piece stung my eyes.
Exit Through The Gift Shop is directed by Banksy who meets Thierry in
California before his Barely Legal exhibit goes live. Fiercely
protective of his privacy Banksy allows Thierry to film him
at work as long as he stays behind him and focuses on his hands and
arms. Banksy also takes the precaution of
distorting his voice which I feel detracts from the film. Initially
encourages Thierry to produce a street art documentary, however he is
shocked at the appalling lack of talent revealed
by Thierry's compilation.
Friends of the reclusive Banksy are unable to understand the
Thierry/Banksy relationship, some good footage of Banksy discussing why
he allowed Thierry into his life is available if you choose to watch Exit
Through The Gift Shop. Banksy, a cutting edge thrill seeker, wants to
provoke his audience. At Disney Land
Banksy sets up a display which lands Thierry in serious hot water. While
I admire bold moves Banksy loses me with his Disney Land display which
touches an overly sensitive American nerve.
Two themes in Exit Through The Gift Shop are commercial success
versus peer acceptance and the idea that
if people perceive you as a power broker then you wield true power.
Banksy's Disney Land piece remains a stunning example of how powerful
provocative art can be. Towards the end of the movie Banksy
withdraws his intial
support of Thierry's street art documentary.
Finding himself without a camera for the first time in years Thierry
becomes a street artist himself.
The movie continues with Thierry selling his vintage clothing
business and purchasing a vacant building. Banksy returns to England and
the camera returns to Thierry who goes through a
series of focus changes. Without giving too much away I think I can
briefly touch on his Mr. Brainwash exhibit which spawns one of my
favorite quotes from the movie, "I don't know who the
joke is on, I don't know if there is a joke."
Another scene I liked featured a tour of the home of a street art collector. This woman claimed that collectors who own original Picasso's are also interested in the work Banksy produces.
Naturally the film wants to establish street art credibility however
Banksy's work carries an appeal that someone who studies art critically
could probably describe. Defining an artist is easier said than done, I
felt this movie helped me understand the unique way an artist approaches everyday objects.
Personally I enjoyed Exit Through The Gift Shop. I found it well paced with new thoughts about art, lawlessness and
the cycle of rejection by the masses, intrigue by some, a gradual wider
sphere of influence and eventual movement into popular culture.
Ultimately I do not think of Thierry as an artist who pushes you outside
of your comfort zone. To me that role was filled mainly by Banksy whose
work I admire without approving of it which is likely the
point of the movie.
Viewers seated on my couch gave Exit Through The Gift Shop four out
of five stars. Banksy directed the movie which
is why I say the joke is on the audience. In my opinion Banksy exploited
his relationship with the French camera man, exposing him for what he is
while profiting from sales of the film featuring the obsessions of
Guetta. Your taste may not run along the same lines as mine, any local
art gallery would probably appreciate your patronage however if you
want to skip the cliche of life imitating art avoid an Exit Through The Gift Shop.