Monday 6 September 2010


Now on DVD is this Banksy produced documentary about the street art movement.
More after the jump...

This documentary is brought to us by Banksy, almost as infamous for his secret identity as his counter culture street art. Narrated by the gruff Rhys Ifans, it shows us the nocturnal habits of these scandalous vandals. Giant rats holding placards and phone boxes murdered with pick-axes appear overnight, creating a temporary thrill for passers-by and a whole new wave of graffiti warfare.

Although Exit Through The Gift Shop features some fantastic works of art from people including Banksy, this film is really the story of Thierry Guetta, an average camera pointing voyeur who found himself caught up in the street art scene. Thierry had been documenting his life for years without any real purpose, but when he started documenting his street artist cousin 'Space Invader' on the streets of Paris, he found himself part of a growing movement.

After gaining access to some of the worlds most famous street artists, including Shepard Fairey (the man who gave us the iconic poster image of Barack Obama, sloganed with 'HOPE'), Thierry set his sights on tracking down the Bristolian bandit, Banksy.

These artists work on other people's property, and a lot of what they produce only lasts a matter of hours, so having Thierry around with his camera proves advantageous for chronicling their work. As Banksy himself concedes as he shows Thierry a million pounds worth of Princess Diana headed money, what they do is "a legal grey area".

Thierry starts to piece together his hours of footage into the 90 minute feature 'Life Remote Control', quite rightly considered to be an almighty mess of a film. Seeking to increase his involvement in creating the art, Thierry retreats back to California to hone his skills as a street artist, emerging as the dubiously talented 'Mr Brainwash'.

He organises a fantastically grand art show before anyone has even seen his work, and embraces all the celebrity that comes along with that, not realising that it's cooler not to give a shit. Although this is mainly a portrait of the self propagandising Mr Brainwash, it's clear that Banksy himself is not averse to a bit of self-promotion. Or perhaps it's more accurately described as legend-building.

The film is billed as 'a Banksy film', opening up many questions about the ownership and manipulation of art. Banksy never shot any footage personally, most of that was done by Thierry himself, although I'm sure he'd not be too happy with his portrayal in the film. As to how Banksy came into possession of Thierry's years of footage, we don't know. That adds to the question of whether what we're seeing is real or not. Banksy does like to play elaborate tricks on people, and maybe we'll find out a different truth further down the line. I wouldn't be surprised either way.

It brings to mind the excellent documentary Overnight that chronicled the rising career and eventual downfall of Troy Duffy and his film Boondock Saints. That was another film that initially started with full co-operation before turning on its subject and making them a figure of ridicule.

Their stand-point on the success of Mr Brainwash is clear, but you've got to see this film yourself to make your mind up. Have they created a monster? Thierry's not without talent, but his work does look quite similar to other people's works. He's not stolen any ideas from other artists, instead processing what he's learnt from them into his factory line operation. It's not quite street art, but it's certainly similar.

Exit Through The Gift Shop is a very interesting documentary about the street art movement, even if its focus isn't on Banksy. Anyone who's familiar with Banksy's work knows that it comes with an arrid dry sense of humour, and that's definitely present here. It tackles the matter of celebrity in the art world, and has a few laughs along the way. Thoroughly entertaining.


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