Exit Through the Gift Shop (USA/UK; 87 min.)

directed by: Banksy
Exit Through the Gift Shop

Chris says: "It's rare for one film to fully capture how an artistic movement evolves from inception to irrelevance, but that’s just what this ingenuously constructed, gleefully entertaining documentary does for graffiti-inspired guerrilla street art—as it’s all happening, no less.

"We begin with secretive British artist Banksy, whose elaborate, provocative pranks (such as playfully defacing a portion of the Gaza Strip wall) elevate street art into something that attracts critical acclaim and mass media coverage. Hiding his face in shadow and electronically altering his voice, he keeps his anonymity while addressing the camera. He relays the story of Thierry Guetta, a transplanted Frenchman who ostensibly runs an Los Angeles clothing boutique but seems to spend all of his time (circa the late ‘90s) filming everything and everyone he sees with a portable video camera.

"Inspired by a relative who is himself an aspiring street artist, Guetta begins to track down all the L.A. street artists he can find (including a young Shepard Fairey long before his iconic Obama 'Hope' print made him a household name). Under the pretense that he’s making a documentary, Guetta videotapes them as they create and (illegally) display their work on public and private property. In turn, he becomes their accomplice, soaking up lessons on how to create street art. Eventually, he befriends Banksy, who tentatively allows him to keep a record of his work. Guetta, however, never had any intentions of actually making a documentary. Feeling mounting pressure to do so from all the artists he’s followed (manipulated?), he turns out to be a fabulously inept filmmaker. Banksy suggests that Guetta put the documentary aside and instead create some street art of his own—perhaps even put on a show. Meanwhile, Banksy decides to have a go at making his own documentary using Guetta's voluminous tapes of unmarked footage, and the finished product is the film you’ve been watching.

"It doesn’t end there. In an astonishing final act, Guetta ends up unexpectedly turning the whole movement on its head in what’s either a cunning display of his idiot-savant nature or just miraculously dumb luck. As for growing speculation that the film is just another Banksy hoax, well, Guetta is undeniably a character (with his stout stature and massive sideburns and ‘stache, he rather resembles one of the lesser-known Mario Bros.), but he seems so genuinely off that I don’t believe for a moment that he could be made up—even by someone as mischievously creative as Banksy, who proves himself a seriously adept filmmaker. Captivating front to back, EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT both revels in street art’s illicit thrills and astutely, hilariously critiques the commoditized monster it becomes.  5 cats

Diane says: "That Banksy is funny. He gives himself some awfully good lines (timing, mostly) at the end of EXIT, a purported documentary about a purported documentarian of street art, which is Banksy's medium. The best part of this movie are the laughs, in fact. Second best is seeing Banksy at work in guerrilla fashion, in Disneyland, at the Wall in the West Bank....

"After you see this docu, you'll have fun debating what was true about it. My decision is guided by the star Frenchman's incredibly bad English, the flaws of which are not rooted in a Romance language. And then there's the question: was the film really even made by Banksy? Fortunately, you don't have to know anything about street art culture
and artists to enjoy this thoroughly. But it's slight. 3 cats"
Shannon says: "EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP was pretty interesting.  I have read some reviews where people contemplate whether the whole film (and the character of the French 'Mr. BrainWash') is just a huge hoax perpetrated by Bansky and Shephard Fairey.  I think it just might be; it's an interesting look at art, authenticity and commodification/consumption.  Made me think of MY KID COULD PAINT THAT a little bit.  I'd highly recommend it!"
Thom says: "While Chris’ review is tangentially fascinating and superb in its appreciation of this great film I question if it was proper to give away the final act of the film. Personally, I knew nothing of these street artists and what happens to one of them was a gigantic surprise to me, who read Chris’ review after I saw the film. So I would have been rather annoyed if I had read his complete review before viewing the film. If this doesn’t get a Best Documentary nod there’s no justice. The elusive Banksy is indeed a great artist, now if we can only find out who he is! If even you dislike graffiti art this film should not be missed. I wonder if I’ve seen a better film all year? 5 cats"
Michael says: "Well, I’m more with Diane than Chris, Shannon and Thom on this one… this film is pretty interesting, and as a piece of filmic, street art by Banksy, it works.  And thinking about what’s real and what may be a hoax is thought-provoking, as is the whole notion of the modern art world and who it is exploited.  The more I think about it, it’s actually pretty clever.  All that said, I’m sad to report that my attention kept drifting as the film progressed, so while I like the film as a piece of “art” I wasn’t all that enthralled by it as a film.  I’d go with 3 cats too. "
Julie says: "Just saw this movie last night! I agree with Michael's thoughts  on this one. I'm glad I saw it but I give it a 3.6 cats for it's film merits. The whole thing is pretty clever as Michael pointed out - Don't want to say too much more due to Spoilage factor."