CINEMA: Please Don’t Eat The Banksy

NEW YORK TIMES: “Exit” is billed as “a Banksy film,” but Banksy, the notoriously reclusive British street artist, appears only rarely, face hooded and voice distorted. Even so, it is Banksy whom audiences will come hoping to see, stimulated by the canopy of hype that this artist has carefully erected, in interviews and on the festival circuit. What they will find is, like Banksy’s best work, a trompe l’oeil: a film that looks like a documentary but feels like a banksyusonesheet.jpgmonumental con. Spanning almost a decade and several continents, “Exit” tells of Mr. Guetta’s infiltration of the secretive world of street artists, greased by his cousin, the Parisian artist Space Invader, and a video-camera obsession. Claiming to be a filmmaker, this diminutive Frenchman becomes the unlikely accomplice of a movement whose members have a vandal’s fear of recording devices, accumulating thousands of hours of tape and landing a coveted introduction to Banksy. “I liked the danger,” Mr. Guetta says. “It made me feel good.” And while we are in the gloriously self-aware company of artists like Invader and Shepard Fairey (the future designer of the ubiquitous Obama “Hope” image), the film is relentlessly entertaining, a fascinating document of work whose life span is commonly determined by city councils and cleanup crews. The astonishing tags of Neckface and Swoon, Cheez and Coma were made to be filmed, and perhaps the biggest disappointment of “Exit” is that we are allowed to glimpse so few of them. MORE

DAVID EDELSTEIN: Having endured the subway eyesores of the early eighties, I hold a relativist view of street art: If it’s good, it justifies the vandalism; if it isn’t, it warrants imprisonment and/or the forfeiture of a hand. But there is no questioning Banksy’s art. As shown in Guetta’s footage, his satirical assaults on politics and culture in settings as various as the alleyways of London, the barrier wall of the West Bank, and a ride at Disneyland are affronts of genius—stinging with a lingering afterburn. As a director, he’s just as explosively succinct. May he vandalize our screens for decades to come. MORE

FAST COMPANY: In the summer of 2008, I saw an article in the LA Weekly about a massive street art show mounting in L.A. named Life is Beautiful. On the outset the show seemed ambitiously cool. The 125,000-square-foot show was being staged in CBS’ abandoned Columbia Square Studios, a massive modern office complex where I Love Lucy was filmed. The artist, Mr. Brainwash or MBW, was an up-and-comer who had already plastered the city in his likeness, as a guy holding a video camera. And the timing for such a spectacle could not have been more perfect: Artists like Shepard Fairey had illegal works dotting same blocks as their gallery-installed shows, and we were all still talking about the dusty downtown warehouse vandalized by Brit street art phenomenon Bansky two years ago. But something here seemed off. The clichés. The rip-offs. The triteness of a Campbell’s Soup can crossed with a spray-paint can. All the Warhol references. The name “Mr. Brainwash.” And most of all: Ringing endorsements for the show from the two most famous street artists in the world, Fairey and Banksy. The whole thing, it’s clear now, was an intricate prank being pulled on all of us by Banksy, who has never publicly revealed his identity, with Fairey as his accomplice. The new “documentary” Exit Through the Gift Shop, “directed” by Banksy, and “co-directed” by Shepard Fairey, takes that prank one step further. MORE

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Purringly narrated by Rhys Ifans, “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is the directorial debut of the supersecretive—and supersuccessful—English street artist Banksy. This faux-documentary is droll, aerosol-thin and ultrameta, a movie about a movie that supposedly was but actually wasn’t being made about Banksy by his amiably bonkers Boswell, a compulsive French videographer named Thierry Guetta. The clueless Thierry character comes on like Andy Warhol on vitamins, a wannabe artist—and proprietor of a Los Angeles clothing store—who manages to be both endearingly modest and amusingly grandiose as he promises to create an epic documentary on street art. That he fails miserably is part of a witty conceit that soon gets wittier. “It was then,” the hooded Banksy intones in an electronically-altered voice, “that I realized maybe Thierry wasn’t actually a filmmaker, he was maybe just someone with mental problems that happened to have a camera.” MORE


PREVIOUSLY: The pop artist Christina Aguilera has just dropped £25,000 – that’s about $43,500 – on a painting by the British graffiti artist Banksy.  The painting shows the late Queen Victoria, who passed anti-homosexual laws and “famously believed women were incapable of being gay”, depicted as a lesbian. Victoria, clad in stockings and garter belt, is painted in a compromising position with another woman. Aguilera plans to display the controversial painting in her home. MORE

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