Monday Movie: Exit Through the Gift Shop
Meet Thierry Guetta, a man who films every moment of his life. When he discovers that his cousin is the French graffiti artist Space Invader, it's his induction into the world of street art. Soon he's accompanying all manner of guerilla artists on their sojourns around the cities of the globe, as they fight signposts and billboards for control of our visual space. His access extends as far as Shephard Fairey (whose iconic image of Barack Obama is known worldwide) and even the impossibly elusive Banksy. When anyone asks him just why he's filming everything, he responds with the obvious answer: he's making a documentary on street art. Eventually though, Banksy realises that Thierry is just "a guy with a camera and mental problems".
Exit Through the Gift Shop is a really interesting film, in a lot more ways than you might expect. At first it covers a broad perspective on street art, arguing that this is a way to put meaningful images in the public eye while side-stepping or corrupting corporate advertising and the art-gallery establishment. And then, in Thierry, or "Mr Brainwash" as he starts to call himself, it goes on to show this very process going spectacularly awry, projecting someone into the public eye who has no talent or originality beyond his unwavering self-belief and an innate knack for generating hype.
But, hang on a moment, I can't fail to mention that there's also the nagging suspicion that Mr Brainwash may himself just be the latest Banksy piece, a bizarre self-parody, or a parody of people's perceptions of Banksy and his career - and in some way, despite what Banksy may say at the start of the film, this actually is a film about him. Isn't that just the kind of stunt he'd pull?
(I also have to mention that the UK DVD comes in a really cool cardboard box, with a kaleidoscopic pair of "unique 2D glasses". It does not, regrettably, come with subtitles.)