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75 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Underground Art As Traditional Commerce--A Real Life Tale of Hype And Delusion That Is Also The Year's Most Incisive Satire
Having heard much praise heaped on the art world documentary "Exit Through The Gift Shop," I expected to enjoy the film although I had no inherent interest in the graffiti scene. But the film is a sly examination of what constitutes art in the modern era. What starts out as a conventional biography turns into one of the most pointed satires about this topic that I've...
Published on February 9, 2011 by K. Harris

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars and funny look at this underground world
It is self-dubbed “The World’s First Street Art Disaster Movie.” And when the film first started, I
watched the images of two-bit graffiti “bombers” and rolled my eyes expecting that this
destructive, ugly lot of sorely misdirected painters would be glorified. But the director quickly
focuses on the crème de la...
Published 28 days ago by Tom S


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75 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Underground Art As Traditional Commerce--A Real Life Tale of Hype And Delusion That Is Also The Year's Most Incisive Satire, February 9, 2011
This review is from: Exit Through the Gift Shop (DVD)
Having heard much praise heaped on the art world documentary "Exit Through The Gift Shop," I expected to enjoy the film although I had no inherent interest in the graffiti scene. But the film is a sly examination of what constitutes art in the modern era. What starts out as a conventional biography turns into one of the most pointed satires about this topic that I've ever seen. (Coincidentally, I just watched the fictional comedy "(Untitled)" which covers many of the same themes and offers an equally savage skewering of the hype and pretensions to be found in this world). I didn't, however, realize that I was specifically aware of the film's subject matter. I lived in Los Angeles during the pivotal time period presented in the movie, and I remember and recognize the major event that dominates the film's second half. Of course, I didn't have an insider's knowledge of how it came about--and I had no idea that learning the story would be so patently absurd or that it would have me laughing out loud!

That's right, for me, "Exit Through The Gift Shop" works as a comedy. I was entertained by the more conventional first half, but I was delighted by the ridiculous turn of events for the finale! The film follows Thierry Guetta, an amateur documentarian that becomes obsessed by the world of street art. With a camera constantly at the ready, Guetta insinuates himself into this underground community. He's an oddball, to be sure, traveling the globe and leaving his family to endlessly film footage without ever constructing a final product. When he teams up with one of Britain's most elusive talents (Banksy), the two become virtually inseparable. Banksy eventually steps into the spotlight with an upscale show in Los Angeles, asks what's going on with the documentary, and is perplexed by the hastily assembled disaster that Guetta finally presents. Banksy keeps the footage to see if he can put something more coherent together and sends Guetta off to put together a small show of his own art.

As Guetta returns to stage an art spectacular, "Exit Through The Gift Shop" ramps up into overdrive. More concerned with hype and promotion than artistic integrity, Guetta forges an alter ego, employs a production team, and starts to mass produce derivative work based on classic pop art or recognizable pop iconography. Art as commerce--Guetta fashions himself a star! And if you tell enough people you're a genius, the word gets around. "Exit Through The Gift Shop," in the end, becomes an indictment of gullibility and hype--but also of success. The madcap and over-the-top antics of this self deluded narcissist becomes the year's most scathing comedy, all the more absurd because it's real. Banksy, never showing his face, claims credit for the resultant documentary--now about Guetta as opposed to the real street artists. And it is this sly shift of expectations and presentation that makes the film a unique entry into the documentary field. A lot of fun, but in a truly disturbing way! KGHarris, 2/11.
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69 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, May 15, 2010
This isn't a traditional documentary, and I'm honestly not sure how sincere it is. One of the other reviews of this piece (an incredibly long, rambling, painful review) documents what happens in the film, and is right to question its sincerity. Although the film seems to bemoan the downfall of "street art," I think instead it rightfully engages what it is and means to be an artist in a capitalist system. It's very funny, very introspective, and often very profound, and is only strengthened by the nagging suspicion that the anger at "selling out" isn't actually anger at all. It reminds me more of Banksy's early work, where he placed his own paintings in major galleries, than the kind of high-profile "sincere" work that characterizes most street artists that become well-known. And, of course, it's an effort FROM those same artists, self-referential and self-questioning, but always interesting. Well worth watching, and a great documentary for an art class on public or socially active art.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, entertaining, and worth many a discussion after watching, December 17, 2010
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My wife and I heard about Banksy some time ago and were actually anxious just to learn more about his craft and talent. Akin to the main theme of the movie, after watching Exit Through the Gift Shop I think we got what we were looking for, but not quite in the way we expected.

The movie is divided pretty fairly into three equally entertaining sections. The first third introduces the protagonist, Thierry, and sets the background for his obsession with street artists. The middle portion of the movie introduces Banksy and follows the growth of his relationship with Thierry. The final act features Thierry almost exclusively, and while I was sure I knew where the film was going to end up, I found myself anxiously awaiting confirmation (incidentally, I couldn't have been more wrong).

My favorite thing about this excellent film is the conversations it begets once the credits have rolled. Questions are raised about each of the film's featured artists and the art world in general that may not have clear answers, but are entertaining to discuss nonetheless. I appreciated that the film was willing to acknowledge that it didn't have the answers either, especially considering how difficult it must have been to not pretend otherwise.

My wife and I may not agree about exactly what happened at the end of the film or why, but I think we can both agree on one thing after viewing: Banksy is much, much more talented than either of us originally thought (and we thought pretty highly of him before).
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let the Brainwashing Begin, June 3, 2011
By 
Eric Wilson "author" (Nashville, TN United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Exit Through the Gift Shop (DVD)
What starts as a possible peek into the mystery of Banksy, the world-renowned street artist, turns into an artistic peepshow into the brainwashing of a French filmmaker who in turn brainwashes his fans.

"Exit through the Gift Shop" is a fascinating look into the world of street art and those who pursue this new form, eschewing money and personal fame for the chance to make their mark and give the finger to the establishment at the same time. Many of these artists are truly amazing, and the efforts they go to in pursuit of venues and canvases are equally amazing. In the process, though, the public interest has turned those such as the enigmatic Banksy into sellable properties. Banksy, while making political statements on the West Bank wall and other places, decides to cash in on the growing fame and does a huge show in L.A. that drew Hollywood's brightest stars. In so doing, he makes street art into something marketable on a grand scale. Was this his intention? We don't know. Conveniently, he never lets us know how much he made.

He does, however, use this film to set up the French filmmaker Thierry as
an artist to be mocked. Thierry, good at documenting but not good at putting together a cohesive film, decides to put on a show of his in L.A. By some miracle, he pulls it off, flirting with financial ruin to make it happen, and ends up making a lot of money and a new name for himself as Mr. Brainwash. Yes, his art is derivative, and no, he did not pay his dues. He becomes a slightly pathetic, slightly comedic figure in all of this. But Banksy also cashes in, while not playing as honestly by letting us in on the details of his prestige and income in the art world. He also, glaringly, fails to explain how some of these artists travel the world. Perhaps it's all part of protecting identity, but it is a question that begs to be answered throughout the film.

All of it, nonetheless, makes for some highly entertaining documentary work, and calls into question the ideas of marketing, art, and whether art can be objectively judged for its own merits or merely subjectively judged by those who buy into the hype, as in the case of Mr. Brainwash. In the end, maybe Mr. Brainwash is right. Maybe life is beautiful in the midst of all the brainwashing. Or maybe he's simply the product of ego, envy, and the desire to carve out his own niche in a world of increasing self-promotion.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ironic? Sad? Insightful? Comic? It's Certainly a Unique Comment on the Art World., January 23, 2011
This review is from: Exit Through the Gift Shop (DVD)
"Exit Through the Gift Shop" was made by the British street artist Banksy, apparently out of desperation. While visiting Los Angeles in 2006, Banksy was introduced to a French émigré named Thierry Guetta, who compulsively films everything he sees. Thierry had been introduced to street art in 2000 by his cousin, who calls himself "Invader" for the Space Invader art that he plasters everywhere. Thierry found a focus: He would film street artists. Back in L.A., he filmed the artist Shepard Fairey and learned the process of making street art in all the best spots in L.A. So, when the celebrated and elusive Banksy needed an assistant, Thierry was the perfect person to show him around the city.

Thierry was supposedly making a documentary about street artists -and epic documentary judging by the quantity of film footage. But when Banksy finally puts Thierry on the spot about the documentary, it becomes clear that Thierry is no filmmaker. He records everything but has no ambitions for his collection of documentary evidence. So Banksy takes on the project himself, sifting through over 10,000 hours of footage. In an inspired moment, Banksy decides that the film should be about Thierry Guetta rather than about street artists. So this compulsive filmmaker who became the documentarian of so many street artists becomes the subject of a street artist documentary.

But the story doesn't end there. While Banksy tries to put the film together, he encourages Thierry to pursue his fledgling artistic ambitions. He doesn't expect that Thierry will take all he has learned from other artists and try to do them one better by producing computer-generated street art on a commercial scale and putting on a huge art show that will net $1 million. Thierry doesn't know much about art or art shows, in fact, but he does understand hype, and, whatever else he may lack, he does have guts. "Exit Through the Gift Shop" documents these peculiar circumstances and their unlikely outcome and, in so doing, makes a truly strange and insightful comment on the art world.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What is art?, October 7, 2010
I went into this film not knowing exactly what to expect - for one thing I had very little interest in the topic of Street Art, but I'd read an article about Banksy in the WSJ a while back and the film was recommended by a couple of friends. I'm glad I gave it a chance, as Exit Through the Gift Shop is a brilliant, hilarious, entertaining, and thought provoking documentary, or mockumentary - I'm not sure which. The film style reminds me of This Is Spinal Tap [Blu-ray] and Where's Marlowe?, although it's better done and funnier than both.

The characters are unforgettable - Banksy, who's face and voice are disguised, serves as a narrator of sorts and is the true mastermind behind the entire experiment. Banksy is excellent, but the star of the show is Thierry Guetta, a Frenchman who sets out to make a documentary on Street Art. I do not believe in narrating the story in my reviews due to spoiling the plot, but suffice it to say that Thierry has an overabundance of energy and passion for his work and the art he pursues but he lacks the organization and formal training (i.e. proper editing, narration) to produce a refined final work. Thierry's character is a classic underdog - a clueless yet talented (in some respects) dreamer that the audience can't help but root for. When Banksy and Thierry finally meet, Banksy turns the tables and Thierry the documenter becomes the documented, with hilarious results.

Exit Through the Gift shop is extremely funny - laugh out loud funny, from beginning to end. But unlike most comedies, Exit Through the Gift Shop actually asks a thought provoking question - What is Art? I'm not quite sure how to formulate my answer at this point, and the film certainly demands a second viewing, but through Thierry and the challenge he's set upon Bansky does an incredible job of framing the question.

I mentioned at the beginning of this review I didn't have much interest in the subject matter of Street Art, and moreover when I saw the film I dragged with me a friend and his wife who had even less interest than I. They went in with sort of a "really Adam, what are you getting us into?" attitude (along with 4th who went much more willingly) ... at the end of the film the four of us looked at each other and simultaneously mouthed "wow". I haven't done any research on the film after the fact and honestly I can't tell you how much of this "documentary" is staged/preplanned/hoax and how much is real (my guess is something in the middle), but either way it was well worth the price of admission.

Exit Through the Gift Shop is excellent - hilarious, thought provoking, and most importantly it includes original and genuinely likable characters. Whether you're interested in Street Art or into the "indie" film scene or not, this one is worth buying, and I say that as someone who doesn't buy very many DVDs/Bluray in the age of netflix.

Five stars.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Film, great package, Not necessaty to be blu-ray, May 16, 2011
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I just think its a great film overall and the blu ray package comes with a few little gifts that are really cool, as well as the packaging and design. But I think that theres no need to buy this blu-ray . You would be equally fine with the DVD because most of the content is generated without HD cameras .,so u wont notice much difference.

Peace!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting, even if you know nothing about Street Art, April 10, 2011
By 
This review is from: Exit Through the Gift Shop (DVD)
Before I saw "Exit Through the Gift Shop", it struck me as something that I wouldn't really enjoy. While I had heard of Banksy, the British street artist, before, and had enjoyed the few paintings of his that I had seen, I pegged this movie as a self-glorifying ode to street art. From the opening of the film, however, it's clear that this documentary is not going to go down that route.

The star of this film is not Banksy, it's actually the cameraman who films him, a French man by the name of Thierry Guetta. Thierry is an odd man who obsessively films everything in his life, and he stumbles upon the world of street art almost coincidentally. The film follows his exploits filming famed street artists (including Banksy) and his unlikely path into street art himself. The direction of the film changes significantly a few times, and it does take some getting used to, but in the end, it makes perfect sense, or no sense at all.

Speculations have arisen that the whole film is in fact a hoax, created by Banksy, with many questioning the authenticity of Thierry's portrayal. Whether or not it's a "hoax", this film is definitely the best documentary I've seen this year (not that I've seen many). It's surprisingly funny, and it raises a lot of questions about what it means to truly be an artist, what it means to "sell out", and whether or not some people should attempt to create art at all. You'll be thinking about this one long after it's over.
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26 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If You're As 'Conservative' As I Am ..., December 21, 2010
By 
Giordano Bruno (Here, There, and Everywhere) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Exit Through the Gift Shop (DVD)
... a person who goes to the opera a lot, seldom walks on the grass when there's a sign prohibiting it, likes quiet restaurants and clean white restroom walls, and occasionally feels resentful at sprawling graffiti, then this film will challenge your receptivity. It's a generational minder-binder, a challenge to any conservative's most fundamental instinct of order and propriety. It's a film by and about... gasp! ... "street artists!"

My acrobatic 20-year-old son, who has been a highly-paid 'street performer' at the Circus Festival in Montreal and who used to delight in scratching his name in fresh cement, lured me into watching "Exit Through the Gift Shop" with him. I doubt I'd ever have known of it otherwise, though I live in a city where murals on any vacant walls are treated with reverence. The director of the film is the mysterious Briton 'Banksy' - a street artist so famous that there are guidebooks to his work in London and protective plastic sheets over his few pieces in San Francisco. Banksy includes himself both as subject and as narrator in his film, electronically muffling his voice and shrouding his face in darkness. Another well-known street artist - Shephard Fairey of Los Angeles - appears openly and turns out to be startlingly clean-cut, the boy next door 1950s style. The prolific Space Invader, whose little mosaics of plastic cubes are everywhere in Paris, plays an essential role in the film as he introduces his 'cousin' Thierry Guetta to the excitement of nocturnal tagging. First challenge here: where are the lines to be drawn between malicious defacement, playful self-assertion, defiant creativity, free-speech demonstration against repressive authority, and the highly skilled art of Banksy and others whose aesthetic includes outlaw outrage? Indeed, are there lines? And who really has the "right" to delineate? What art is sacrosanct, if any, and why?

The central character in the film is Thierry Guetta, and the chief enjoyment of the film is the bafflement of trying to make sense of a guy who is either an obsessive-compulsive idiot-savant, or a genius at self-promotion, or a total fluke. Guetta first appears as an immigrant small-business-owner family man who gets a video camera as a gift from his wife and who 'goes nuts' taking pictures of everything everywhere all the time. Eventually he finds his bizarre niche as the documenter of street artists at work. I won't short-circuit the development of his career any further.

The cinematography of this film is as random and amateurish as most street art, and that's exactly what makes it both authentic and fascinating. When one street artist metaphorically scratches his head about the work of another, and declares that the other hasn't 'played by the rules,' you will KNOW that you've wandered into unsurveyed ethical/aesthetic territory.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mister Brainwash Rules! ...?, January 23, 2012
By 
Adam J. Stout (Grand Rapids, MI) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This documentary is alternately inspiring and depressing. But above all, it is interesting. Graffiti artist, Banksy, positions himself as storyteller here. The story of guerilla art vs commerce and subversion vs sell-out, dance around the background of one man's dream to make his life count for something. If you enjoy art and irony, you'll probably love this flick.
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Exit Through the Gift Shop
Exit Through the Gift Shop by Banksy (DVD - 2010)
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