Exit Through the Gift Shop

I’m veering away from the ten Best Picture nominees for a moment (yes, I know I have five more to do; calm down!), because I wanted to mention a film that was nominated for Best Documentary. I have very conflicted feelings about it because while it was my favorite movie of 2010, it was also quite possibly the worst film I have ever seen as far as the nausea-quotient is concerned.

Exit Through the Gift Shop is an amazing documentary about street artists and how they produce their guerrilla-style markings on the public infastructure; OR- it is a film that asks the perplexing question of how you continue to produce anonymous art when you are suddenly as famous as one of your works, which is what happened to street artist Shepard Fairey when his “HOPE” poster of Obama became a symbol during the 2008 election; OR- it is a social commentary on what defines art and why people buy it; OR- it is a Cinderella story when one dude with no talent and a stencil can completely convince all of Los Angeles that he is is the Next Big Thing. OR- it is none of the above; it may all be a big hoax, perpetrated by director/street artist Banksy, as he becomes involved with a crazy French videographer who shoots miles of film which he then stores in cardboard boxes and never looks at. If it’s a fake, it’s a terrific one, because it’s almost impossible to tell where fantasy and reality collide. I didn’t really care, because the film was hilarious and thought-provoking and made we want to sneak out after dark with a can of spray paint to tag some underpasses. This film could teach Joaquin Phoenix a thing or two about perpetrating a fraud.

One tiny flaw: you know those hand-held camera techniques that directors are always incorporating to make their films seem more intimate and personal and documentary-like? This movie really is a documentary and owns those techniques, and is therefore shot in the dark, while people are running and quite possibly with the camera strapped to the backs of homeless people who have Parkinson’s Disease. I have never experienced anything like this; there’s not a single frame where a shot is steady. It’s perfect for the guerrilla-type artists that are being featured, but it’s sheer hell if you’re in the audience.

I’m very confused by this film, because it proves to me that even when I know I’m going to be sick (and with this one you could tell within the first three minutes), it doesn’t make me like it any less. That sounds a little masochistic even to me. The film is now available on DVD, and that is probably the best way to view it. Or maybe you could find it online, download it illegally and watch a pixellated, buffering version of it. Somehow I think Banksy might like that.

Barf Bag rating: FOUR BAGS (and I’d give this one five if I had a graphic that went that high)

2 thoughts on “Exit Through the Gift Shop

  1. G

    Having just seen this movie YESTERDAY I find it amazing that I had never heard of it before. As soon as I saw it I noticed that everyone was talking about it, and now I “stumble upon” this fabulous site. Completely agree the camera work is barf-inducing and created, for me, a mind numbing frustration the further into the “documentary” I went.
    After seeing the movie, I mulled it over for a good 12 hours (completely pissed off at this quasi-retarded French guy I was originally routing for, and at the art world in general for being so pretencious and dare I say…”brainwashed”). Then I started doing some research online and I’m completely ashamed of myself that it didn’t even occur to me that this could be a hoax! All I have to say is that I hope this was one big PUNKED pulled off by the faceless figure in the shadows (which btw, did anyone else find attractive in a weird way? Maybe it was that grainy, altered voice or those adorable hoodies.)
    Either way, great movie but agreed that’s its best to put the popcorn down while viewing.

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