Thursday, February 7, 2013
JEFF OF THE CINEFILES: HALL OF FAME: FILE # 0023: EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP (2010)
The story of how an eccentric French shop keeper and amateur film maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy, only to have the artist turn the camera back on its owner. The film contains footage of Banksy, Shephard Fairey, Invader and many of the world's most infamous graffiti artists at work.
This started as a review and somehow ended up as a Essay as I try to wrap my mind around the film. It took on a nature of it’s own It’s rare that I review a documentary. As usually what you see is what you get and all you can review is the information and the way it is presented. Was it exciting? Did it take one point of view over another? What message did it give? Did It present it thoroughly?
Sometimes they Pull you in and open up a conversation, Some doc’s give you insight and leave it at that. It starts off as a documentary on Street art then becomes more of a narrative. This Documentary speaks with such passion, but also such disdain and keeps you off balance. While engaging you. That it feels special. The film feels different. It might not be the deepest as far as subject matter and information. It definitely has something to say.
The New York Times movie reviewer Jeannette Catsoulis coined a new term for this kind of film: prankumentary. It’s not immediate, but it also never leaves you. It eventually focuses on only a few character, but gives insight and a partial overview into the scene of underground art. Discovering it supposedly as our documentary/Subject does. The incredible thing is as you watch the film. You begin to wonder if your not having the wool pulled over your eyes and that this film is an experimental art film hoax as to the character of Mr. Brainwash. It Reminds me of the Orson Welles film F IS FOR FAKE. That is what gives the film it’s energy it’s a documentary where you have to question everything and while it happens you also feel like a detective trying to figure out a mystery.
Banksy claimed that he spent a year watching footage of vandals and graffiti artists spray painting walls. Thierry Guerra is a real person but the last 3rd of the film he becomes more of a fabrication by BANKSY making commercial art under a different name to show how fickle and guillable collector’s and fans alike are. How there is no real creativity it seems anymore or at least that people don’t appreciate the creation. They just want to own and bask in the more glamour and celebritatory aspects of it, or it could all be true and just showed how it happened. How art is losing it’s luster as far as talent and creativity. How it’s more hype than anything. Which is a perfect representation of what’s going on in all forms of entertainment. No one seems to want to work to master their talent. They want instant fame the same goes with films, these studios buy up all these scripts from upstarts for the originality. Then when they put the script in development try to drain anything that made them original in the first place. So they play like films you’ve seen hundreds of times before. (I know I got a little off topic) Why? Because it has worked for them before. It’s sort of like how TV watchers always complain they want something different and original and when the networks give it to them. Rarely does the show survive because audiences don’t want to watch a show they have to see every week to understand each episode individually or feel it’s too different and go back to shows like CSI and HOUSE. Where not much changes each week, but new guest stars and different cases.
Unfortuantely at the end of this film there is no Hercule Poirot from the Agatha Christie novels to explain it all or expose you to the truth. The film gives you a backstage pass to parts of the different artists creative process and execution with great footage of the artists at work. It gives you a glimpse of them before they became famous or infamous. But it also helps define them as characters though they are real In the 3rd act they seem to reverse positions as Thierry becomes the artist and banksy makes a film about him and as Thierry gets the media to believe he is a art star. He begins to behave itself. Its hows how something that was once thought of as vandalizing public property. Is now a collectable commodity. The film's editors had to sit through over 10,000 hours of Mr. Brainwash's tapes just to get a few minutes' worth of usable footage.
This is a film that I feel truly challenges perception and truly fits into the art that Banksy creates. It might all be a put on to make him laugh or a big and practical joke, but the fact that he puts so much work and dedication in is what impresses and leaves it’s mark. Also leaving it up to the people the audience to choose. How much worth we choose to put into what we see. How much emphasis and worth we put into beauty and culture. Do we let ourselves be lead around by popular opinions of others?
Sorry if this review more comes off as an essay on art. This is more a reaction of how this film expressed itself to me. Made me think. Giving you something to think about before watching the film or if you have another layer to explore.
This is rare for me to give out the highest honor even for films that make my top 5 of the year. It’s fun and light hearted. At times it feels like it could be a comedy. So it’s a great documentary, but leaves quite a few questions in you head. Brilliant even