Exit Through the Gift Shop (8/10)
by Tony Medley
Run time 87 minutes.
OK for children. This is an odd film about an
odd guy. It started out to be a film about street artist Banksy by
Thierry Gueta a Frenchman who ran a women’s clothing store in Los
Angeles. Gueta bought a video camera and started taking videos of
everything he did, eventually concentrating on street art.
Gueta had hundreds of thousands of feet of film,
so Banksy was going to cooperate with him in making the film. But then
Banksy found that the film Gueta had was mostly unusable and he says in
the film that he came to the conclusion that Gueta might just be
“someone with mental problems who happened to have a camera.” So,
ostensibly, Banksy did a reversal, took over the direction, and made a
film about Gueta. I say ostensibly because there is some speculation
that the entire film is a hoax instigated by Banksy, whose real identity
has never been revealed.
There are interviews with Gueta, who has taken
the name Mr. Brainwash. There are also interviews with Banksy, who is
always shrouded in a hooded sweatshirt with his face completely in
shadows. Lots of the film is about an exhibition Gueta gave at the old
KNXT (CBS) TV studio on Sunset Boulevard (called “Life is Beautiful”),
that, according to the film, drew thousands of fans and raised over a
million dollars in sales of Mr. Brainwash’s junk art. Well, some people
apparently don’t think it’s junk because Madonna apparently commissioned
him to create the artwork for her “Celebration” album, and his poster
during the 2008 Presidential campaign of Barrack Obama as Superman
became quite famous.
It’s hard to believe that this guy could create
this kind of art, which is what leads to the speculation that this is
all a huge hoax engineered by the mysterious Banksy. Banksy’s art, for
what it’s worth, sells for big bucks at exhibitions.
Is this film a satire on the gullibility of
people paying huge sums of money for ugly junk? Andy Warhol’s idea was
to show the world the absurdity and meaningless of art, and people lined
up to pay huge amounts of money for things like a painting of a can of
soup. If the point of this film is intended to be a satire on that, the
result was that the same people who would pay for the can of soup
painting will pay for the junk Mr. Brainwash allegedly created.
The film leaves one with many questions, just
one of which is, is Thierry Gueta really Banksy? If not, did Banksy do
all the art claimed by Mr. Brainwash? How could a person like Gueta
create a persona like Mr. Brainwash and come up with all the art
exhibited at “Life is Beautiful?” Where did he get the money to finance
the renting of this huge location and to hire all the people he did to
put it on and promote it? Banksy probably could have afforded it, but
it’s unlikely that Gueta could have. So if Banksy financed it, why?
Questions abound, but the bottom line is that
Banksy is probably laughing all the way to the Bank. Regardless of the
verisimilitude of the film, it is risible and highly entertaining.