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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Monster Movie Club: Exit through the Gift Shop

In some ways street artist are a lot like Internet commentators. You put your feelings out in public, not knowing if people will like it or not. Mostly they are out of context to the average passerby and they are soon forgotten. 
The first half of the movie is a love letter to the street art world from the scene’s biggest champion, Thierry Guetta.  It’s pretty endearing how a man with a camera and not much finds himself in the world of graffiti. The graffito taggers seem to embrace him early on simply for the fact that he embraces them.  He has a strong sense of just needing to create something, which I would imagine also helps to form this bond.  A fun symbiosis is formed when they realize that they need him as much as he needs them. The first half of the film is fun and you cheer for the kids(not really kids) who disregard social norms and express themsleves without bothering to check if it offends authority.
Enter Banksy

If you’ve heard of street art, you’ve heard of Banksy. He is basically to street art what Kurt Cobain was to Grunge; he did not invent it, but he did give a pop hook. Banksy is the anonymous pop face of street art. He plays out the rebellious stereotype of street artists even when he’s selling his pieces for several thousands of pounds. I’m not sure what makes a good artist. If I’d have to guess, I would say it’s the ability to have people put up with your bullshit. If this is true, Banksy is unequaled.
He spends the latter part of the movie making fun of his friend and basically saying how hard it is to make street art. When Guetta deconstructs Banksy’s and other artists’ style and recycles it as his own, he is praised by everyone except the artists. Banksy is not amused by this, but never really explains why his art is good while Guetta’s is badThere is a strong sense of contempt from him towards Guettta for not creating art the same way he does it.  Basically, Banksy offers the same outlook “real artists” say about street artists. Now, I’m not an art critic like Steve Winwood so maybe I can't really appreciate the differences, but it is HIS MOVIE. he could have thought it out instead of messing with vocoders and complaining aimlessly.
I liked the movie, but Banksy is a dick. 
Next week: TMNT (1990)


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, especially the first part. Seeing people with a genuine passion who take risks to put themselves out there made for great footage (Which was my main criticism of least week's movie, Spirit of the Marathon). The second half was a little muddled conceptually, but I understand why Banksy included it and why he feels that Mr. Brainwash is not an artist. I think he said that artists spend years finding their voice, their identity and Guetta was just recycling ideas he had seen of people he admired. Which had me wondering, could Mr. Brainwash really be a more commercial identity of Banksy? Guetta is never seen havind real ideas for art, just explaining what had been done and it was clear he had no idea what half of the art was about.

    My theory is that Banksy was annoyed by all the art collectors wanting, but still wanted to cash in on street art, so he commisioned a lot of art to be made and asked Guetta to be his representative. Or he could be trying to prove a point about what consitutes art, but I do think Guetta wasn't responsible for that art.

    Also, I thought the EXACT same thing about commentators. But my thinking was that they take known conceptions of culture and manipulate them until something different is created to encourage debate. Because that was my notion of what street art constitutes, take iconic images, flip their meaning and confront an unsuspecting audience.

  2. I don't agree with you at all, Chris. I was floored by this movie. I loved it top to bottom. Sure Banksy is a dick (so I guess I agree with your last sentence), but he's a principled dick. But the movie isn't about Banksy or street art. The entire story is about Thierry's character arc. It is set in the world of street art, which leads to discussions about art, but it's definitely not supposed to be like a skate video where different skaters on the team take turns showing their skills. It's a story about one man and how his predisposition for constant observation led to employment making copies of creatives.

    I loved it. I think it deserves every accolade it gets.

    Here's a cool interview where Banksy continues to rag on Thierry:

  3. @AM I had no idea this movie was considered a probable hoax. I don't think it is, but I guess that just means Banksy fooled me.
    If this is the case i don't think this makes him any less of a dick since he would in theory use his friend to make a point about how his art is superior.

    @ic I'm not sure where we disagree. Maybe about the beginning of the film?
    Thanks for that link, I'm not really that familiar with Banksy other than from what I've seen in blogs and such. In this interview he claims that he could have given himself more control and come out differently. I myself could not think of a more calculating person than a guy with strategically placed lighting and voice changers.
    Maybe he made himself a dick to make Guetta more likable?
    According to the movie Banksy told Guetta to follow-up with street art after he saw his disaster of a film. This was either done to make him crash and burn or to make fun of the mainstream art scene.

  4. Banksy was the only street artist I had heard of before I watched this movie. But I did thoroughly enjoy watching how all the street artists actually produce their work. I've never really had a problem with graffiti (unless it's just their name, then I just think it's boring :/)
    And my take on Mr. Brainwash was that the other artists were more annoyed with him because he wasn't really doing the legwork for his 'fame'. I mean, you can find Banksy annoying and think his work is shit, but he's still the guy who's doing it. From what the film showed Brainwash just put up a few things of street art and then had a gallery showing full of art that he himself didn't create.
    Honestly, for me, very few people came out of this film looking clean. Nearly everyone seemed like an asshole by the end, which is fine. I mean, in real life I think nearly everyone is a bit of an asshole

  5. @chris: Really, because most of the info I had read about it claimed it had to be fake - at least in some parts, even go as far as to speculate that Guetta IS Banksy. Which he isn't, because the English don't speak French like that.

    Also, I can't respond to the poll in length, but can there be an alternative way to discuss what movies to watch except chat? Because of time zones, that could be a bitch for some people. Could be anyone, really. For some, it would be at 3 at night. I recommend Bigger, Stronger, Faster from the list.

  6. I agree with anchor management, "bigger, faster, stronger" is a can't miss

  7. Slimer has a lot of good points about this. Also, if you haven't heard Paul F. Tompkins do his impression of Mr. Brainwash on CDRradio I recommend it. He cuts him down to size. "Basically my medium is glue. I take other people's art work and I have the bravery to glue it on public places."
    He only hopes some one creates a cure for cancer so it can be Mr. Brainwash's cure for cancer.