REVIEW: 'Exit Through The Gift Shop'

REVIEW: 'Exit Through The Gift Shop'

REVIEW: 'Exit Through The Gift Shop', Flicks.co.nz

4 stars

This extremely intriguing documentary from street artist Banksy opens nationwide on Thursday. Click here for session info

Banksy, you may know, is an iconoclastic UK graffiti artist who somehow manages to maintain a secret identity while selling his (beautifully) stencilled idents for a fortune. Loved and loathed in equal measure, it’s hard to tell if he’s a great artist or just a great piss artist – a problem Exit, his first film, refuses to solve.

Narrated, almost in inverted commas, by actor Rhys Ifans, and filmed on the fly, it’s the story of obsessive documentarian Terry Guetta, a hanger-on who spends so long brown-nosing Banksy’s crowd he eventually becomes a Warhol-alike pop-art sensation. Problem is, none of it appears to be true.

Droll, but not funny; authentic-seeming, but not real, Exit is a strange oxymoron of a film, like a straight-faced Spinal Tap or a Man On Wire for liars. If Guetta’s story is true (which it really can’t be, although there are magazine covers and exhibitions to back it up), it’s quite depressing. If it’s not, then Exit is just an excellent but ironic piece of self-promotion, which is quite depressing too.

Pick your way through the different levels of artifice, though, and there’s a point in there somewhere. Banksy’s fake documentary about Guetta is actually a real documentary about Banksy, told from one remove, with interesting points to raise about the commercialisation of art, which Banksy does with great success. While purists may take umbrage, Exit is done so well it’s impossible to ignore, even if you want to. Much like the man himself.

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