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Laramie Movie Scope:
Exit Through the Gift Shop

A very strange story about art

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 30, 2010 -- Since virtually anything can be considered art, the term has become virtually meaningless. A documentary film which shows the truth of this assertion is “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” a story about how one man with virtually no talent parlayed his friendship with a few artists into an empire so big and so strange it is almost unbelievable. Of course, he could not have done this without help from a lot of people with a lot of disposable income and little common sense spending freely on his behalf. To paraphrase P.T. Barnum, there's one of them born every second.

This incredible film centers on one very unusual man, Thierry Guetta, also known as Mr. Brain Wash (MBW). We first see Thierry as a clothing store owner. He buys cheap clothing, labels it as high fashion, and sells it for very high prices, following P.T. Barnum's guidelines. Thierry is also obsessed with movies. He carries a video camera with him all the time, taking pictures of everything. The odd thing about this is, he never watches what he records, he just throws the tape into baskets. Thousands of hours of tape, just sitting there, unwatched. That's just the beginning of the weirdness.

Thierry becomes aware of street art through his cousin. He becomes obsessed with street artists and meets more of them. They agree to let him film them in action when he tells them he is making a documentary film about street artists. The problem is, he is not. He is still putting all his tapes in plastic storage containers. Sometimes, he puts a date on them, sometimes not. He never watches them. He just likes using his video camera and hanging out with artists. That's as far as it goes for Thierry. After a lot of effort, Thierry finally meets the world's most famous street artist, the mysterious Banksy (who directs this film). Banksy suggests that Thierry should actually make his documentary.

Inspired, Thierry starts editing thousands of hours of video into a 90-minute documentary. The result, Banksy says, is an unwatchable jumble of images and sound. Thierry's documentary is an incomprehensible, headache-inducing mashup of disjointed images and noise. Banksy, who has never made a film either, decides he can do better and persuades Thierry to give him the tapes, about 10,000 hours worth, and he will try to make his own movie. The subject is too important to him for these images to be lost. Banksy tells Thierry that he should become a street artist himself. Inspired, Thierry throws himself into the street artist business. He sells everything he can, mortgages his house and embarks on a new career as an artist. Using endorsements from Banksy and other artists he knows, he opens a massive Mr. Brain Wash art show in Los Angeles which turns out to be an unbelievable event.

This documentary isn't all about Thierry. There is quite a bit about street artists. According to the Wikipedia article, the film's editors poured through 10,000 hours of video shot by Thierry and found a few seconds worth of street art video that was put into this documentary. Thierry is not even listed as a cameraman in the Internet Movie Database article for this film. There is considerable speculation about Thierry in the film. Is he mentally unstable? Is he some kind of genius? Is he just plain weird? One thing is for sure, he is unique. He has a proven track record of being able to sell both clothing and art to people for far more than it is worth. Banksy says in the film that he used to think anyone could produce meaningful art, but after seeing Thierry's art, he is not so sure. Thierry has challenged Banksy's notions about art. This film may challenge your own notions about art, too. This film rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2010 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)