Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Higgens Network: Exit Through the Gift Shop

The best film I’ve seen this year may not even be a film. Exit Through the Gift Shop may be a prank or a ruse. It could be completely true or a masterfully fabricated fable. What makes the film work is that either way, it’s effective.

Exit is a documentary about a failed documentary. Thierry Guetta is a very odd Frenchman who is constantly filming everything he sees. His camera is always on recording the minute details of his day. He comes across an interesting phenomenon in Los Angeles: street art. He befriends a man named “Space Invader” who takes stencils of characters from the Space Invader video game and posts them around the town. He decides this new underground art movement is perfect for a documentary.

So he becomes a bit obsessed. He’s constantly following around artists like Space Invader as they avoid the cops and post their work. The biggest name in street art is a mysterious figure named Banksy, who is the director of this film. He has never been recorded on tape but he is legendary. He has snuck into major galleries and posted his own work. He’s put up pictures in the Middle East and has creatively destroyed a phone booth for the sake of art. He is his own phenomenon. Thierry keeps trying to get him for the documentary and when he finally does this movie goes into a new direction.

The story becomes a bit incredible and I don’t want to spoil anything. Needless to say it brings up the question of whether what we’re seeing is real or not. Is this another Banksy product? How real is Theirry? He seems to be quite a bit crazy and definitely an idiot. Is he a convincing actor or a legitimate character, reminiscing of Timothy Treadwell from Grizzly Man fame?

Knowing these answers does not take away from the powerful questions the movie has about art. Is street art real art or is it merely graffiti? Can someone be “wrong” for getting something out of a piece of art that appears to be baloney to others? Then how does money factor into all of this? The film doesn’t draw these questions only on its own artists but of all of art.

Seeing the film just on the surface level is highly entertaining as well. The movie is consistently funny, usually at the expense of Theirry or his future handle “Mr. Brainwash.” The film maintains a subtle level of mystery, as it seems every talking head is looking back at what happened with a certain level of disappointment. The footage seen is incredibly and puts the audience in the same level of as excitement as these renegade artists.

The film sticks with you and encourages you in its own subtle way. Is that from the puppetmaster Banksy or is he just taking credit for it? Just thinking about the film in that way makes the film powerful and successful.


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