Saturday, 6 February 2010

Sundance 2010. Exit Through the Gift Shop premiere.

Exit through the gift shop.

Banksy fired up an anticipatory buzz at Sundance. Billed as ‘The Spotlight Surprise’ and unveiled only a few hours earlier, people piled into the auditorium, half of which was roped off for ‘entourage’. Director of the festival, John Cooper, introduced the film with a handwritten note, apparently left for him by Banksy. The note explained that everything we were about to see was true, especially the lies.

Graffiti pieces were dotted around Park City, a mouse with 3D glasses, the man with the film camera and uprooted flower, the boy with angel wings and a monkey with a cctv camera. On the local news, Park City policemen confidently vowed to find Banksy…

For those outraged that the director himself had not bothered to show up, the opening credit, which displayed a mocked up ‘Paramount Pictures’ aped into ‘Paranoid Pictures’, probably went over their heads.

The ‘documentary’ focused on Thierry Guetta, a French man who was addicted to filming everything, endlessly filming, an embodiment of the figure graff’ed on the side of the Java Cow Café in Park City, obliviously destructive in his pursuit of capturing life with his camera.

As Thierry Guetta thunders through the underground culture of graffiti, the fast paced goose chase is dotted with questions about art, the nature of artistic merit or value and the boundaries between fact and fiction in art; toying with public opinion and negative responses to Banksy’s graffiti.

Guetta explains how after he befriended Banksy he decided that he would become an artist too, and after flipping through an art book and absorbing the classics he proceeded to simply copy them. Under the name ‘Mister Brainwash’, Guetta begins to put on wildly successful exhibitions, while a west country accented gentleman in a hoodie (titled ‘Banksy’), shrouded in darkness and vocally disguised, laments the friendship they forged, and vows never to recommend anyone to go into art again.

There is a self-awareness in this ‘documentary’ that criticises the desire for explanation; an inference that recording and documenting kills the essence of the mystery. This is an intelligent comment, but I squirmed in my seat paranoid that for all the wit in the film, the joke was on us, the audience – that at some point we had been pooled in with the rat in 3D glasses; vacuously paralysed with the promise of entertainment.

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