Is Exit Through the Gift Shop an elaborate hoax? Is this “documentary” about street artists good enough to warrant excited speculation about its authenticity among the nation’s film critics?
The answer to the first question is … probably not. The answer to the second question is … probably not. For those who have not heard the movie’s backstory, it goes something like this: Earlier this decade, a French immigrant to L.A. named Thierry Guetta turned his obsession with photographing everything into a more-specialized activity: filming street artists at work. Guetta was introduced to the mysterious “Banksy,” a British legend in the world of illegal street art. In a neat twist, Banksy became the filmmaker and Guetta the artist, resulting in an art-world frenzy for Guetta’s work and this acclaimed documentary for Banksy.
At one point, street artist Shepard Fairey (who is not a fabrication) wonders aloud whether Guetta’s artistic pretensions are simply a con. The enigmatic Banksy questions Guetta’s mental health. And since the film’s release, the nation’s film critics are questioning their own grasp of reality — is this film a prank? Did events really transpire the way we are led to believe in Exit Through the Gift Shop?
The movie is amusing — that’s all. I did not leave the theater pondering any Big Questions: What is art? Is it in the eye of the beholder? Has art become too commercialized? No, I left the theater pondering the merits of the movie itself, which to me was mildly entertaining. No more, no less. Grade: B
Director: Banksy Featuring: Thierry Guetta, Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Rhys Ifans (narrator) Release: 2010
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