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Last night I watched the Banksy documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop and it was actually really entertaining, but kind of confusing. It's not that there is anything in the movie that is confusing or hard to understand. I just don't know if the movie is real or if it is just another one of Banksy's pranks.
Who is Banksy?
If you've never heard of Banksy then you should check out his website and flip through some of the pictures. He's a street artist who has risen to fame through a few highly publicized stunts. The first time I heard about him was when he snuck some paintings into a few of New York's biggest art museums and applied them to the walls as if they were part of the collection. He also drew a lot of attention when he snuck a life-size inflatable of a Guantanamo Bay Prisoner into Disneyland and placed it near Thunder Mountain. He also teamed up with Danger Mouse (Gorillaz, Gnarls Barkley, Broken Bells, etc.) to embarrass Paris Hilton by reworking the cover art and redoing the music of her debut album and placing the doctored copies in retail stores on release day. Most recently he was invited to rework the intro to The Simpsons.
Some people hate him and think he's a hack. This seems to be a fairly common view of people who start out as street artists and gain fame in the art scene. I think he's got a good sense of humor and I enjoy hearing about him every now and then. The most amazing thing about him is that despite his fame, he has managed to remain anonymous. Obviously there are people who know who he is (managers, collaborators, gallery owners, etc), but nobody has spilled the beans.
Exit Through The Gift Shop follows Thierry Guetta, a French citizen who lives in LA and has an obsession with filming things. He films every moment of his day and stockpiles all of the footage. He develops a curiosity for street art through his cousin Space Invader, who installs space invader collages made out of rubic's cubes into public spaces.
Through Space Invader, Guetta ends up meeting and filming a collection of street artists, including Shepard Fairey (Andre the Giant, Obey, Obama). Guetta hears about Banksy and becomes obsessed with meeting him. Fairey later introduces the two and Banksy and Guetta become friends. This is where things get tricky. I don't want to spoil the twist in the film, but by the time it ends you're left wondering what's real and what's not.
Is the entire thing a joke? Is part of it a joke? I really don't know, but it's kind of fun to think about. There are plenty of conspiracy theories and explanations online to keep you busy.
Is It Worth Checking Out?
Exit Through The Gift Shop is an enjoyable documentary that is funny, has a good pace to it, and is worth watching even if you don't care about Banksy or street art.
The footage from Banksy's prank at Disneyland is great because you can really see the impact that some of his installations have. They shut Thunder Mountain down mid-ride! Disney does not mess around with stuff like that.
It's also interesting to see raw footage of people like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and Jude Law popping into a dusty warehouse in LA to see a Banksy show (the controversial one with the live elephant).
If you get a kick out of Banksy's art you should check out my blog on Blu.
Tommy M. is not a prank. Or is he?