If, as actor Rhys Ifans cheekily narrates, street art is "the greatest countercultural movement since punk rock," then the elusive figure known only as Banksy is Joey Ramone, Johnny Rotten and Malcolm McLaren, but richer. Exit stars Banksy’s little known — in fact, unknown — protÃ©gÃ© Thierry Guetta. Boy wonder to Banksy‘s Batman, this weird little Frenchman taped every artist, friend and family member who crossed his lens until, as “Mister Brainwash,” he turned himself into an art star whose Warhol rip-off pop (celebrity silk-screens and soupcans) go for upwards of $100,000.
Banksy appears to be criticizing the hype and those ghastly sums of money the art world throws at the “next genius,” and Guetta makes a nice, pudgy target, but the joke is ultimately on us. Could this all – the art and the film — be something of a hoax? A meta-film with boundaries beyond the screen? Perhaps Thierry is actually working with Banksy? Mister Brainwash’s debut show, which makes up Exit‘s climax, definitely did happen (it was covered by LA Weekly), but maybe Banksy orchestrated it all? No-one truly knows. Questions like these only add to the fun of the film.
Formally, Exit is extremely polished. If it’s not a trick and everything in the film is real, then this is a well-executed, if manipulative, character study of art world eccentrics that’s on par with last year’s Anvil! Either way, the story is entertaining, the imagery beautiful and the ensuing conversation will keep everyone engaged. Join in the fun and see what all the hubbub is all about.
Exit Through the Gift Shop is playing at select theaters now. To find a showing, visit the film’s official website.