After watching EXIT THROUGH THE GIFTSHOP, Banksy could be Guy Ritchie...
Published at: May 11, 2010, 2:07 a.m. CST by headgeek
You know... This is a very complicated film to discuss. After the film played tonight, for about an hour straight, Richard Linklater, myself and a very passionate group of art enthusiasts stood around dissecting and talking about the film we had all just seen.
The film in question is Banksy's documentary, EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP. A film that at first seems to be about this crazy Frenchman's pursuit and adrenaline addiction to capturing and following the lives of famous Street Artists like Shepard Fairey, Space Invader and eventually - Banksy.
And for the most part that's what the film is. You have a story about this Thierry Guetta, whose mother died when he was young, thus creating a deep and lasting desire to capture everything on video. He just wanted to not miss or lose anything to the ethereal realm of memory, but in the documented reality that so many of us are addicted to.
HOWEVER... Somehow, Thierry Guetta is the documenting, quasi crazed Frenchman. You see how excited he was to be a part of this forbidden scene. This illegal act of Street Art. He filmed in KINKOS, private residence, atop buildings, in alleys, on the sides of bridges, running from cops, etc.
As an audience member, you can't help but be fascinated by Thierry's mania. I mean, thank God someone was documenting this stuff. This is an entire artistic movement that has become the most important art movement of the 21st Century thus far. It is absolutely vital - it is capturing the attention of the world - and in many cases it is incredibly provocative and thought-inducing.
That said - Theirry isn't really a filmmaker. He's a cameraman. He's capturing footage with no real sense of what to do with it. He wasn't even labeling the tapes or organizing them. Thousands of hours of tapes in dozens of large tuperware containers... safe, yet... sitting there. YEARS of shooting. In a way - this was a documenting Henry Darger type. Thierry Guetta could have kept following and capturing the creation of street art indefinitely - without the larger world really having access to any of it - except something happened.
That something was the mysterious, world renowned BANKSY. Now, the various guerrilla artists all knew about Theirry. He had followed and captured them all. And Theirry was trying to get BANKSY - and everyone was telling him it was impossible. You'll never get BANKSY. And then, one day, Banksy comes to L.A. but the fella that was to be his assistant got turned around due to some immigration paperwork snafus... and Banksy asked Shepard Fairey who he should use and that's how BANKSY and Thierry Guetta came to be.
Now, you can take these scenes at face value. Accept that as reality, but frankly... I don't. Whoever Banksy is - it seems to be a man of means, capable of organizing a talented and motivated crew of collaborators. A man that has managed to put wonderful works on either side of the West Bank's infamous wall. A man that can kidnap a British phone booth, reshape it, weld it, repaint it, then place it back on the street completely transformed. He organizes around the world. And on a trip to L.A. his 'street man' gets turned around by immigration - and he happens to be paired up with Thierry Guetta? I feel it is obvious in the documentary, that BANKSY knew of Thierry in advance of their meeting. BANKSY brought Thierry into his world, gave him a taste for it right as BANKSY blew up big with his DISNEYLAND Guantanamo Bay work and that West Bank stuff.... well, it was a really convenient time for BANKSY to be placed with the man with all the footage for the entire scene of which BANKSY was being placed atop.
BANKSY convinces Thierry to make his film on Street Art, it apparently was incomprehensible, but at the same time, BANKSY puts the seed into Thierry that he should begin doing art himself.
Thierry becomes MR. BRAINWASH - creates a crazy show in Los Angeles, BANKSY sends some of his "team" to help - He and Shepard Fairey each provided a quote - and suddenly Thierry is launched as an instant star on the STREET ART scene. Which BANKSY is the pronounced king of. Interesting.
Then there's the film itself. Narrated by Rhys Ifans - who is essentially speaking for BANKSY, when BANKSY doesn't seem to want to be speaking distorted digitally, hidden in shadow - well... Ifans narration is very sharp, funny and bitingly on point.
But when you take a look at this film, this documentary - I can't help but think of the unnamed entity behind it. BANKSY. His art is the work of a fiercely intelligent soul. And this film is expertly crafted and put together. It is hysterical, intriguing, captivating and thought provoking. This is THE artist of the movement, essentially using another person to comment upon the entire Art Movement that he's the foremost Artist working... and he takes this man that was documenting him, turned him into an artist, took the man's footage, life and story and used it to construct an incredible narrative documentary that throws a huge pie into the face of the movement itself, while clearly illustrating why he's the real artist.
That is fascinating because we're talking about a paper bag artist that TIME magazine puts as one of the 100 most influential people on the planet living today - whose film is the product of another man's life story, in a field that BANKSY rules, takes his media with permission after establishing him as a major artist in the movement... it just... well it recalls Welles' F IS FOR FAKE, but without the vantage to prove it.
One thing is certain from my first viewing and that's that BANKSY definitely put some mojo on Thierry - and that Thierry's ascent as a major modern artist under the guise of Mr Brainwash... it has to be a hilarious obscene joke that turns everything on its ear - and it is absolutely that type of film that you can chew on, scream about and fight about perspective.
It is Art. Like everything that BANKSY has done, it makes you giggle, think and appreciate. This film is Screening throughout the U.S. & Canada, go here to see if it is playing near you.
I just hope we see more work in the film world by Banksy, if we haven't already. My Guy Ritchie as Banksy joke in the headline comes from a notion I had. I figure BANKSY is someone we may know. But the fact that Mr Brainwash did Madonna's 20th Anniversary Album art... and the comment that Banksy has about that - and just the concept that Madonna might pick the "accidental Frankenstein" which seems to actually embarrass BANKSY at some level, along with amusing him... Felt like a slap.
I'm kidding. I know GUY isn't BANKSY - as I just got off the phone with a friend that has met BANKSY and while he told me Guy isn't BANKSY he said that was a very smart guess... So I suppose it could be MATTHEW VAUGHN. Or anybody. That's part of the fun of this Artist. The mystery. That's part of the gold of this film, the mystery of it. How do we know if any of it is real? What is constructed to fit a pre-existing narrative that the filmmaker may have an agenda in portraying? Or maybe, just maybe... this is exactly how it all went down.
The tagline on the film is "The world's first Street Art disaster movie" and that line... in and of itself - tells me that this could very well be an experiment that went horribly awry for Banksy. Or maybe that's just what he makes us want to think. We can't know for sure, because BANKSY is still the wizard behind the curtain... If BANKSY even is a singular entity. Maybe BANKSY is an alien.
I don't know, but I love looking for clues - and this is the great pop culture mystery of our day. Right? This film may contain more clues, false leads and confusion - but it is kinda brilliant all on its own.
A wonderful documentary - that I'd kill for the ACADEMY to honor thus forcing the single most "what the fuck is about to happen" moment in Oscar history when BANKSY wins. It could come to that. It really is that good.