If you have free time this week, go see “Exit Through The Gift Shop” at E Street. Well worth the 87 minutes. The film synopsis was rather cryptic, which made me equal parts intrigued and mildly irritated — a big name behind a film doesn’t necessarily translate into awesome filmage, especially where the director isn’t even known first and foremost for filmmaking.

(Such may have been the case, for instance, with the much-hyped Animal Collective film ODDSAC, which I waffled about seeing for a ridiculous amount of time. I had free tickets and the trailer had some enticing vampiric gothy-ness, but I also suspected it would just be a psychedelic mishmash of cool but otherwise meaningless visuals… in other words overkill on the artsy fartsy. If you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear what you thought).

But in this case, the director was Banksy, the notoriously elusive street artist whose subversive work has pretty much become iconic worldwide. And seeing as I am a humongo mongo mongo-ass Blur fan, this was enough to intrigue me (see Banksy’s ubiquitous cover art for the Think Tank record).

Here’s some of his peace-provoking pieces:

And this:

And lots of other street art in very public, and sometimes very societally sensitive places… ahem, such as the wall at the West Bank in Israel and Palestine.

Well after seeing this film, I could see why it was hard not to provide a cryptic synopsis. It was one of those baffling art-within-art-within-art type deals where the film transcends “documentary” (ie, a collection of pure facts) and morphs, before your very eyes, into art itself.

Through the first half of the film, I was duped into thinking this was going to be a relatively straight-ahead, humdrum (albeit fascinating) documentary of the underground subculture of graffiti artists. Basically, an average joe (Thierry Guetta, a Frenchman who immigrated to LA) is obsessed with the enigmatic, faceless Banksy and makes it his life goal to track him down. He succeeds and he even befriends Banksy, gaining his trust and shadows him at night as goes out to create his illicit street art. What’s more, he films Banksy … hence the documentary we are now watching.

But of course it couldn’t be that simple. Everything takes an abrupt turn about mid-way and you watch as Banksy essentially puppeteers a real-life situation into a work of art in itself, the same way he’s so good at finding that simple twist on a very mundane object and using it to reveal some painful and darkly humorous irony about our culture. The genius of it all is that the story literally becomes a real-life incarnation of some of the core messages in Banksy and Shepard Fairey‘s artwork about the power of perception in our society, and the danger in this, given that perception can be so easily fabricated and manipulated … through art, of all things. The film included Shepard Fairey, Borf, Space Invader and some other well-known graffiti artists. And Rhys Ifans, who apparently used to sing in Super Furry Animals, narrates the whole thing, at one point referring to street art as “the biggest counter-cultural movement since punk.”

Shepard Fairey’s famous Obey Giant campaign:

Parts of the film were pretty hilarious and entertaining, but it’s a good question who gets the last laugh in this film. It’s Banksy’s film, though, and he comes across as a rather amazing mastermind… whether those two facts are correlated is up to the viewer to decide. Banksy’s pretty darn rad regardless. And we still don’t know what he looks like. Just that he has a British accent and looks cool in a hoodie in the shadow.

PS, if you’re the type to live for those touchy feely discussions about what is art, why is art, what makes art great, is all art great, etc., (all that crap haha, jk I’m one of them!) this documentary will have a bit for you to chew on for days.

Below are some more of Banksy’s works:

Written by devotchkaa

4 Comments

Andy

I love reading your movie reviews. Are you going to check out anything at the Maryland Film Festival in Baltimore this weekend? Well, keep up the good words!

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devotchkaa

I didn’t catch any of the films there unfortunately. anything decent? thanks for your props to my reviews! this nerd will keep writing until someone rips my computer away from me.

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Andy

Out of the 7 movies I saw this weekend, I’d say that 6 were at least decent, if not great.

My favorite 3 were:
Dogtooth – A greek film about a sociopathic control freak father who raises his family totally secluded from outside influence. A refreshing breath of originality in this era of big budget Hollywood remakes, although it may make you think twice about homeschooling. Contains graphic sexual scenes and violence (no, not at the same time). Two old ladies walked out during the screening! Even if you don’t like it, you will probably talk about it afterward.

Cyrus – A romantic comedy about a middle-aged divorcee who finds love again. The only catch? She has a protective adult son who lives with her. John C. Reilly has the best facial expressions, Marisa Tomei is absolutely adorable, and Jonah Hill plays a well-restrained, but subtly menacing nemesis. People were laughing so much it was sometimes hard to hear the dialogue, but I really liked it. It would’ve been easy to go for easy slapstick humor involving an escalation of hostility between the two men, but instead the Duplass brothers made a charming movie that really develops the characters and relies more on wit and everyday insecurities rather than absurd situations. Also, I like run-on sentences.

Tiny Furniture – A movie about a recent graduate school graduate (wow that sounds redundant!) who doesn’t know what else to do so she moves back in with her mom. Being back home, yet somehow a stranger, she is unsure how to deal with friends, jobs, relationships, and even with her own family; it’s a place we’ve probably all been in at some point in our lives.

The other movies I saw were: Mars, Lovers of Hate, Cold Weather, and Bass Ackwards (I didn’t really like the last one though).

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corporations offshore

What they should pay attention to is Banksy who doesnt credit himself or anybody else as the director of this film but who appears on-screen to speak to us from the shadows if thats really him next to a monkey mask with ping pong balls for eyes. Much of the film takes place in Los Angeles which Banksy sees as an art-deprived suburb of Disneyland.

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