Berlinale: Banksy presents Exit Through The Gift Shop

     |    Sunday February 14th, 2010

Tall tale? Or did this all really happen? Whatever! The story told by enigmatic street artist Banksy in his debut film is still in touch with reality. Exit Through the Gift Shop is a dizzying and intriguing documentary that leaves you rubbing your eyes and asking in disbelief DID I REALLY JUST SEE THAT? A devise that is key to Banksy’s style. He manages to bring the disorientation that he achieves by manipulating reality, from the streets and into the cinema.

The “story”: French-born, LA-based used clothes peddler Thierry Guetta obesessively films EVERYTHING that happens in front of the lens of his video camera. One day he meets street artist Space Invader and decides to make the ultimate film about the international graffitti scene.

Guetta follows the big shots on their nocturnal sprees. Of course, Guetta wants to capture the biggest of them all, camera-shy Banksy, on tape. As fate will have it, he actually does meet the maestro and gains permission to film him. “Finish the film like you promised,” Banksy says. The result is a disaster. “Do streetart yourself” Banksy says. So that’s what Guetta does, sort of.  Under the moniker Mr. Brainwash he has others do the actual art. After all, Damien Hirst has assistants too, right? Mr. Brainwash makes it really big…

The film is an obvious jibe at the art world. However, it wouldn’t be surprising if Thierry, aka Mr. Brainwash, and his trashy art were also Bansky inventions. In any case, as soon as Thierry starts the artist thang, Banksy seemingly changes places and slips into filmmaker mode…

The (ostensible) documentary material portraying Banksy and others doing their guerilla  art is especially entertaining. As when Banksy raids Disneyland and sets up an inflatable Guantanamo prisoner. Or when he hijacks an English telephone booth, saws it apart, and reassembles it. Viva Banksy!