Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy, 87 mins
The hype-meister conquers a whole new medium
Sunday 28 February 2010
Banksy speaks! (Sort of.) The elusive street artist caught on film! (Sort of.) Banksy's undoubted knack for exploiting the feverish interest his anonymity provokes has certainly created a lot of hype around this documentary.
The point is, it isn't really about him. It's more about the creation of another street artist, Mr Brainwash, and an exposé of the art market and "suckers" with too much money who want to be part of the latest thing.
It is beautifully layered, however, with a Postmodern self- referencing that sees a film within a film within a film. So what starts as a documentary about street art turns into a documentary about Banksy, and changes again into a documentary about the documentary before its blazing finale. It is also replete with the wit Banksy employs in his art.
So we begin with Thierry Guetta, a French-American who films every aspect of his life. He is drawn into the street-art scene through his cousin, Space Invader, whose thing is to paste up icons from the classic video game. This is before street art has become big business, when its ephemeral nature is being given permanence by photos on the web.
There is great footage of the early nocturnal shenanigans of artists who have since gone on to be collected – such as Shepard Fairey, best known for his Obama "Hope" poster.
The missing piece from Guetta's collection was Banksy. Eventually the two team up, become friends, and we are treated to glimpses of the artist (or rather the hands of the artist) at work – in his studio, infamously daubing the wall dividing Israel from the West Bank and, most amusingly, placing an inflatable Guantanamo Bay inmate in Disneyland's Rocky Mountain Railroad ride, which leads to Guetta being held for four hours by the Disney police.
The first completed documentary, however, is no good. So Banksy tells Guetta to go and be a street artist while he sorts the footage out.
Guetta takes him at more than his word. He takes on the moniker Mr Brainwash (MBW), sells his house and sets up a Damien Hirst-style operation, employing other artists to manifest his ideas. He creates hundreds of works of art, and publicises a massive exhibition in Los Angeles with a supporting quote from Banksy pasted on billboards.
He becomes front-page news, 4,000 people turn up to the exhibition, collectors ring up, he sells $1m-worth of art. We see him making up incredible sums on the spot. The trouble is, his art is no good. It is derivative of Banksy and Warhol, completely devoid of originality.
Exit Through the Gift Shop's first week is screened in a brick vault beneath Waterloo Station, quite literally underground (it reaches cinemas on 5 March). The tickets sold out in one minute and the entrance is through a graffitied tunnel. It's a great metaphor, but it also speaks to what is perhaps the film's only flaw – that it is born of its maverick world and therefore doesn't know its own power. None of the artists featured – apart from MBW – set out for mainstream success, which may be why their art speaks and why this chaotically charming film delivers.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Doctor Who film will definitely happen, leaked Sony emails reveal
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer has leaked – watch
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate