Exit Through the Gift Shop (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner08/03/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 87 mins

Hugely entertaining, cleverly directed documentary that's part real and part hoax but manages to be informative and very funny whilst making a genuine and intriguing point about the commercialisation of street art.

What's it all about?
Narrated by Rhys Ifans, Exit Through the Gift Shop positions itself as A Banksy Film, though most of the footage appears to have been shot by the film's subject, LA-based Frenchman and video camera fanatic Thierry Guetta. Guetta was the cousin of LA street artist Space Invader and he began documenting his stealth art projects; soon, Guetta began mixing with all the big names (notably Shepard Fairey, who became famous for his iconic picture of Obama) and it wasn't long before he made contact with Banksy himself, helping him out in LA and filming his murdered phone box project in London.

However, when Banksy asks Guetta to make a film from his thousands of video tapes, it turns out that Guetta is actually a bit of a nutter and the film he makes is unwatchable. Instead, Banksy takes the tapes off him and edits them himself (supposedly into the film we're watching) and can then only look on in horror as Guetta sets himself up as a street artist in his own right (called Mister Brainwash), opens a wildly successful art show of derivative street art and makes millions in the process.

The Good
The film is actually an intriguing mix of genuine footage and an elaborate hoax (the show) perpetrated by Banksy, Fairey, Guetta and others. The part about Guetta documenting the rise of street art is true, so the first half of the film presents a fascinating glimpse into the methods of several artists, with some impressive footage of the works being created.

Similarly, Guetta really did befriend Banksy and was allowed unprecedented access, on the condition that Banksy retained his anonymity – Banksy himself appears several times and displays a brilliantly dry sense of humour, particularly when showing Guetta his boxes of Lady Diana tenners, which he cheerfully admits could get him ten years in prison.

The Great
However, there's a subtle shift into mockumentary at the point where Banksy asks Guetta to make the film; the second half is also much funnier. That said, it scarcely matters whether Guetta created his art or not, as the film makes a valid and thought-provoking point about the commercialisation of street art.

Worth seeing?
Exit Through the Gift Shop is a brilliantly conceived, superbly directed and hugely entertaining documentary that's well worth seeking out. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Exit Through the Gift Shop (15)
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Content updated: 12/12/2017 00:41

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