I hesitate to call this a movie review, rather I hope that it sparks some interesting discussion about Banksy and how much of a cheeky fuck he is. In addition, I hope that everybody reading this has already seen the movie, making this here article beautifully irrelevant. All that being said, let us begin.
Firstly, let us look at the name of the film: Exit Through the Gift Shop. On the surface it stands as an obvious critique of our capitalist culture and our tendency, as first-world humans, to voraciously consume whatever we can get our hands on regardless of whether or not we need it, or even want it. Just underneath the surface, it stands as an equally obvious insult to the person who just spent money to see it in the theater, buy the DVD, or pay your monthly subscription fee to Netflix to watch it online. This is part of the magic of Banksy, however, and part of the magic of the film itself: art should not be paid for, and we’re all horrible people for paying for it. So let Exhibit A be recognized as proof: Banksy is a cheeky fuck.
Secondly, let us examine the film itself (and I will spoil shit for you here, if you haven’t seen the movie). The movie follows Thierry Guetta (seen above) as he, in turn, follows his street-artist cousin Invader. Through Invader, Guetta meets Shepherd Fairey (self-proclaimed phenomonologist and creator of the icon Obey “brand”) and Banksy (London street-artist and cheeky fuck), and eventually becomes an artist himself, Mr. Brainwash. Interlaced with interviews from the established graffiti artists aforementioned, we watch as Mr. Brainwash becomes progressively more ingratiated into the “underground” world of street-art (and by “underground” I mean totally not even slightly underground). He shamelessly appropriates, creates a brandname out of himself, and effectively murders everything a true artist would hold sacred. I think of a scene in the film when people are lined up around the block waiting to get into a Mr. Brainwash gallery opening and, when they are asked why they are here and what they want to see, nobody has any idea. The general consensus seems to be that, if this many people want to see something, it must be worth seeing. Exhibit B: Banksy is a cheeky fuck.
Thirdly, I have to take anything Banksy says with a grain of salt. There is no way to know when he is being serious, if he in fact ever is. On the “Questions” section of his website, one of the questions reads “Why are you such a sell out?” to which Banksy responds, “I wish I had a pound for every time someone asked me that.” So let’s look at the big picture: I can’t believe (even for a second) that this movie is a true documentary, as it says it is. It seems to me to be a very thinly veiled satire on how fucking ridiculous we can be, as people and as consumers, and how we are slowly killing everything that makes life worth living. The story is too fucking perfect. Guetta becomes a sensation almost overnight? The focus of the movie tends to be more about everybody else in the world, rather than on Guetta himself? Banksy was involved? New York Times reviewer Jeannette Catsoulis wrote that this movie should be in a genre all it’s own: a prankumentary. Exhibit C: Banksy is a cheeky fuck.
In closing, I want to make something very clear: I think Banksy is a brilliant artist and looking at his work tends to make me feel like I’m not doing anything with my life. I think he has accomplished much in the fields of graffiti and also for art in general, philosophy, phenomonology, and probably a few more. The movie currently holds a 96% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2011 (which is pretty damn ironic). None of this changes the fact, however, that Banksy is a cheeky fuck.