Banksy's Entertaining Movie (Though It's Almost Certainly a Prank)
Banksy initially became known as a street artist, but in 2007 his painting "Space Girl and Bird" sold at auction for $576,000. His work generally carries a social, usually anti-authoritarian, message. In Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010), Banksy has made his first movie. Most places classify the film as a documentary, even though the movie has all the markers of being an elaborate prank. But no matter what genre the film is considered to be, the important thing is that it's thought-provoking, lively and enjoyable.
Exit Through the Gift Shop has an engaging and satisfying narrative which is certainly partly true, but probably partly invented. It's about an eccentric man named Thierry Guetta, who ran a vintage clothing shop, then unsuccessfully tried his hand at documentary filmmaking, finally ending up becoming the artist known as Mr. Brainwash and mounting a massive 2008 art show in L.A. During his filmmaking period, Guetta put together a cut of a documentary about Banksy and other street artists, but it was just a series of disjointed sequences. However, Banksy took the former shopkeeper's footage and shaped a narrative around it that focused on Guetta, resulting in Exit Through the Gift Shop.
Guetta is a very quirky and amusing character, and the art world milieu provides lots of arresting and provocative visuals. And the film provides the viewer with some big laughs.
But here's why the movie seems like a prank: it's dubious that Guetta produces artworks entirely on his own, and he's probably acting as a front for Banksy.
The Exit Through the Gift Shop DVD comes with about 41 minutes of bonus materials. The most interesting is the 13 1/2-minute "B Movie," which tells you more about Banksy, particularly his major exhibitions. The 15-minute "Life Remote Control" purports to be an abbreviated version of the disjointed 85-minute documentary that Guetta made. The seven-minute "A Star Is Born" is about Mr. Brainwash exhibiting a work (a barcode over an image of Madonna and Britney Spears kissing) at a 2008 London event called the Cans Festival. Finally, "More Brainwashing" consists of five deleted scenes with a total runtime of a little over five minutes.
Release Date: December 14, 2010
Total Runtime: 1 hour 26 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Language