Posted by: playingthedevil | March 31, 2011

exit through the gift shop

an off duty museum security guard trapped inside an art museum, taken hostage by amish terrorists.  it’s a game of cat and mouse when the lone guard takes on the terrorists and utters “exit through the gift shop” every time he disposes a terrorist.  yippie-ki-yay art lovers.

as far as i know that movie hasn’t been made yet.  there’s the relic which kind of takes place in a museum, and then there’s the international which has a shoot out in the guggenheim, and our die-hard-on/in-a-______ isn’t until july.  exit through the gift shop is actually a documentary about street art, or depending on where you live, graffiti.




street art vs. graffiti

narrated by rhys ifans(hugh grant’s roommate in notting hill, also, little nicky), exit though the gift shop is about thierry guetta, a french hipster-clothing store owner in l.a. who loves to film everything in his life.  someone who looks like either a french ron jeremy or rob schneider doing a character.  we see him filming his family and celebrities he sees around town.  inspired by his cousin space invader, he became interested in graffiti and street artists.  under the pretense that he was making a documentary about the street art scene, he follows any artists he could find and go on adventures with them.  after about a decade of filming he eventually met shepard fairey, and through fairey, guetta finally got a chance to meet the holy grail of street artist, the elusive and mysterious banksy.

thierry guetta aka mr brainwash

there are a lot of great footages in the first and second act as guetta follows different artists, then guetta, and finally banksy, as they work in secrecy in the middle of the night.  guetta though, seems rather clueless, as he has to be reminded to turn his camera light off or where to stand so as to be discreet.  he doesn’t seem to ask interesting questions either.

two of the most memorable sequences in the film belong to the guetta/banksy segment.  one shows the west bank art and the other involves guantanamo bay and disneyland.   i wish both sequences were longer.  i also love the part where banksy sneaks his own works into a museum, very hudson hawk-like.  yes, i meant that as a compliment.

at this point guetta got into the inner circle of not only banksy and all the other artists.  guetta also started to do his own version of street art.  time passes and people started to wonder about guetta’s documentary.  little did they know that guetta has so many tapes, in random order, that he wasn’t really intending on making a documentary.  he just loved to shoot.  not that he didn’t try though.

after watching all 90 or so minutes of the michael bay/tony scott-esque life remote control, banksy(or any sane person) could not believe that that’s the street art documentary that guetta has been working on and filming for, for more than a decade.  after having seen it, banksy decided to make his own documentary and told guetta to give him his tapes and that guetta should work on his own street art.  and here is where the third act begins, a twist that probably only charlie kaufman could come up with.

guetta sold his clothing store and started working on his own gallery show.  he worked on the show alright, although the actual arts are mostly worked on by a team he hired.  he mostly seemed to just walk around(eventually with one leg) saying yes, no, maybe, or do this, or do that.  he also rented a former cbs studio for his first big art show.  in preparation he also got a quote for banksy and landed on the cover of l.a. weekly.  with all the press and hype, mr. brainwash, guetta’s new moniker, his first show becomes a hugh hit and sold about $1 million worth of artworks.

a lot of people seem to see mr. brainwash as a loser/villain.  but i don’t really feel that way at all.  he seems simple and naive and just do whatever he saw and learnt and told.  his actions and thoughts seem to be just the way he reacts to the situations, without any malicious intents.  afterall, he did follow numerous artists, including banksy, for long periods of time.  (his works are a combinations of banksy and andy warhol, and then mass produced by the hundreds.  unlike tarantino, he’s got the homage part down but doesn’t really add much of his own style to his works.  he seems to be unable to be creative.)  my hatred instead is for the retards showing up and paid for his works just because read about it in their local free alternative paper or heard about the buzz.  of all the people who showed up at the show, only one guy seems to understand what it actually was.  the rest of them seem like they would shop at guetta’s vintage clothing store or think that spraypainting words and letters is street art.  they are probably boondock saints fans too.  like i said, retards.

as a documentary, exit through the gift shop managed to be entertaining during it’s first two acts and the mr. brainwash final act, for different reasons.  there are some slow spots.  i also don’t quite know what the message or point of it all is.  a independently wealthy untalented guy  can create something popular?  directed by banksy, the title seems to indicate the sick perverted relation between art and commerce.  but didn’t he know that throughout human history, in any medium or art form, as soon as there’s money to be made, less talented hacks will co-op the idea and make a bundle with it?  anything from punk to independent films to the internet.  there was a time when pop punk or mall punk wasn’t a word, when a $15 million historical drama wasn’t considered indie, when commercials and movie posters didn’t come with a url.  there was a time when viral didn’t mean retarded.

i did get a kick out of mr. brainwash naming his show “life is beautiful.”  it reminds me of other european hacks doing mediocre works and getting rich and famous in america.  like winning best actor at the oscar.  during the end credit, it also tells us that mr. brainwash designed the cover of madonna’s not-as-immaculate second greatest hits collection.  but she’s used to working with hyped semi-talented hacks, since her record label also signed troy duffy’s band, and she was married to guy ritchie, both briefly.  her people sure know what the word on the street is.  or at least they read variety and l.a. weekly.

between inception, i’m still here, catfish, black swan and this, 2010 seems to be a year of movies exploring reality vs. dream, real vs. fake. as with every other documentary nowadays(post-michael moore era?), there are plenty of debates and claims as to whether exit through the gift shop is a hoax by banksy.  i haven’t read anything that convince me that it was all fake.  but much like catfish, i feel that the filmmakers knew more than they let on.  but unlike catfish, exit through the gift shop didn’t feel as suspenseful nor did it involve me emotionally.  as the saying goes, the difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense.

here’s a pretty interesting read that doesn’t quite convince me that it was fake.

and here’s why i think it’s more or less real.






  1. I laughed way too much at the Troy Duffy band part.

  2. look at me, i’m mr. brainwash. now where’s my millions of dollars

  3. I love your last line: the difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense. Unlike Catfish I enjoyed Exit so much I really don’t care what’s real vs whats contrived in it. And the link should be a satirical homage since of course saying something on the internet is no verification of truth just like the film. Shame about the SG link though; I have a personal no SG rule so I didn’t read it – not a nakee girl problem, cos of a personal issue with some of the staff…..

    • i think it’s because there seems to be much more at stake in catfish than exit through the gift shop. and it’s also the reason i think catfish is more involving to the viewer than exit. catfish makes you care so much that afterward you WANT to know if it’s real or not. the worst thing in exit is that some stupid people get rich and famous and some stupid people paid too much for “art.”

      i am a bit confused about your”satirical homage” line.

      • My reference to how much better it would be if the link was (or possibly is, depending on your personal view) a piece of satire because just like the movie (and in fact any piece of representation of anything not seen personally firsthand by the viewer) to anyone displaced from the firsthand experience, there is no real way of knowing if it is real or not real. In documentaries this is essential and that is why we seek to believe that the people who make them are not deceitful. When films may be faux documentary, this is why the crucial point always comes down to ‘what aspects of the production do I think is real, do I think it’s fake?’. Someone putting up a page saying why they think their written words on a website about the veracity of ‘Exit’ is misguided if down sincerely, because that person is unknown to millions of the readers they hope to convince, and they are no more a barometer of the truth than the film is to all those who are removed from the actual events. So if the link was written sincerely it is a waste of their time. If however it was done to highlight how anyone can make a statement about truth about a film, and spark people using it as evidence of truth despite containing no better evidence than the film they are commenting on, that is a stroke of satirical genius.

        Back to Catfish though, I have to differ – I did not feel I wanted to determine whether it was real or not because it made me care so much more – I 100% went out seeking the truth (or as much of the truth as anyone can hope to find) in order to define the direction of my displeasure. Was I displeased because they pumped so much energy into a fiction (which I would view with contempt since it is such a one note concept they should be ashamed they thought it was good enough to proceed with) or am I displeased because it’s real and they have irresponsibly gone ahead with putting out into the world a film that exploits the family so much and exposes them to this world of cinematic critique which will in many cases objectify them as the pathetic, the freakish or the criminal. So no, I am a standing testament that the film did not make me really care. It made me really angry that they had such a flimsy concept that they needed to waste peoples time framing it with all the contextual and iconographic information to suggest that it was leading to something really exceptional, and then when they reveal a ‘twist’ it is also unsatisfying because it makes me an unwilling voyeur of someone who should be helped instead of put before an audience for their amusement or judgement.

        Just my opinion. Kind of the point is that anyone can question the veracity as much as they want, they set it up that way. And I’d tell the filmmakers if I ever met them that I think they are rubbish in either circumstances of truth. Yep, that’s what I think. In fact, that’s better than the original post I wrote on my blog, I might add this as an addendum…

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