By Gregory Crofton
“EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP” is not about Banksy, it’s co-directed by the ultra-talented street artist, and he’s in the film in parts. Instead it’s all about Thierry Guetta, a vintage clothing dealer who lived in Los Angeles with a proclivity to document everything around him using a video camera.
Guetta is a fanatic about all of the things he pursues. So when he began filming street artists at work in the dead of night, he did it mercilessly, and in the process learned the tricks of that trade. But after years of shooting video, he still hadn’t caught on tape the biggest fish on the street, Banksy. Finally he does, and does in a big way. Banksy grows to like Guetta and gives him unprecedented access.
As street art becomes more of a focus for authorities, and they start destroying it quickly, Banksy directs Guetta to put the documentary together for release. Guetta agrees and sets to work. He edits hundreds of hours of footage into a bomb blast of a film. It has it’s appeal, but only in small doses. It’s certainly not the film to deliver the street artist story to the world.
Exasperated with Guetta, Banksy tells him to move on, maybe even to try his hand at street art. Once he gets this license, Guetta goes nuts creating reams of crappy art and adopts the moniker of “Mr. Brainwash.” Then he gets quotes of vague support from Banksy and another top artist and uses them to market his first show, which is a massive success. Mr. Brainwash even ended up doing a greatest hits cover for Madonna, and he now has a thriving career as a artist. (I just checked his website and his supply of fake empty Campbell-Soup-style spray paint cans have sold out.)
This movie got a lot of hype, an Oscar nomination in 2011 and great reviews. I don’t think it deserves extreme praise. It’s an entertaining documentary that’s a little too long. Typically I don’t like movies about street art and graffiti, but I liked this one because at its core, it’s a biographical doc about Guetta. “EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP” is streaming on Netflix or you can download to own or rent it Amazon. It’s also available on Blu-ray or DVD from Oscilloscope.