Thursday, July 15, 2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Tonight I saw the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop.

Thierry Guetta was a young boy when his mother passed away. As the youngest in his French family, her apparent illness was kept a secret from him, which made her death a horrible shock. He never truly coped with this grief, being swept away in the aftermath by relatives, and began filming every aspect of his life perhaps to ensure he'd never forget it.

As an adult, he moved to Los Angeles and began building a family, continuing to film even the most mundane of moments. Friends and neighbors grew accustomed to seeing him with a video camera in his hand, and after a while forgot they were constantly being taped.

At some point, Guetta became interested in the street art that was rapidly gaining notoriety. After learning more about the practice (really, just organized graffiti) he began shadowing some of the artists, traveling and filming their work, claiming he was making a documentary. Though his presence was obviously a nuisance to some, they let him play along, hoping his filming would shed a brighter light on their creations.

The film up to this point in the story is somewhat jumbled and dare I say: boring. If you're not a fan of basic cartooning, you may, like me, find yourself looking at your watch until Banksy appears.

Banksy is an undisputed genius of the medium. He's a British man cloaked in mystery who has made a name for himself by pushing the envelope with a sense of humor and a display of authentic talent. His "stunts" (painting along the controversial West Bank border; counterfeiting British money by replacing the Queen with Princess Di) have made international news, but there is an undeniable charm in his satire that makes him a coveted guest in the art world.

Unfortunately, he let Guetta into his life just long enough for the filmmaker to "learn the ropes" and decide that he would risk everything to create his own art show.

He's soon re-financed everything in his life and hired an army of true artists to make his concepts into artistic reality. And because he's good at self-promotion, he draws a crowd.

To say anymore would be to spoil the film, but I will say that I don't find Guetta to be the least bit endearing. If it were truly a film about Banksy (as it was billed to be), I would have been a lot less bored and perhaps this bad taste in my mouth would go away.


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