Brief review: “Exit through the Gift Shop.” 4 stars.

As unconventional a communicator as street artist Banksy is, his documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop” follows the classic form of persuasion:

[quote] Tell the audience what you’re going to say, say it; then tell them what you said.
Dale Carnegie [/quote]

We are quickly told that the true subject of the documentary is the video-camera obsessed Thierry Guetta.  Banksy completely characterizes Guetta early in the film with an anecdote describing Guetta’s original path to business success as a vintage clothes seller.  Guetta picked up discarded clothes wholesale.  If he saw anything remotely different he called it “designer,” marked up the price 1000% and sold it to overeager hipsters who have too much money to spend.

It’s a credit to how entertaining this documentary is that despite telling us the whole story in five minutes, what follows remains absolutely surprising.

There is plenty of web discussion over whether the film is some kind of hoax.  For reasons I will detail later (don’t read it until you’ve watched the doc for yourself), I find it vastly more compelling taking the director at his word (not to mention his collaborators). First and foremost, “Exit .. ” tells a great story.  It’s extremely well-composed.  It’s funny.  There are brilliant plays on perspective and point-of view. It challenges the notion of authenticity.  It raises the expected question of which bits of street art are indeed “art.” It provides multiple portraits of the joys and consequences of obsession.  And above all I don’t see how anyone can watch it and not get a kick out of what it ensues.

Four stars. Don’t read about it first.  Just go see it. Then tell me what you think.


Photo source


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