Let the pinkish, roughly captured light—Los Angeles after midnight—wash over you in the perversely brilliant Exit Though the Gift Shop, and you can almost pretend you’re out committing a crime, planning a caper, falling for a scam. (Are there better definitions for watching a movie?) Our real-life subjects are the perpetrators of street art, not to be confused with mere graffiti punks. Rather, they put serious time in, stretching out, like Obama-iconographer Shepard Fairey, across the floor of a Kinko’s with elaborate cutouts, or painting, square by square, pixilated space invaders to be glued onto innocent facades. Sometimes the cops catch them. More often, though, as we see and hear in the slyly debauched narration of actor Rhys Ifans (the British bandmate in Greenberg), they create ephemeral works of subversion. Their king is the mysterious Banksy, who has infiltrated Disneyland and, in a spooky, silhouetted interview, looks like Clive Owen in Inside Man.
That is, until he doesn’t, his head hanging down like a schnook. In a fascinating embarrassment of riches, the artist (also credited as director) has not only crafted a definitive statement on his DIY milieu, but stumbled upon a fameball of Warholian proportions, the rise of the fatuous “Mr. Brainwash.” Originally, the dude was just our humble cameraman, Thierry Guetta, a daddy, entrepreneur and obsessive chronicler. Soon enough, he himself begins to venture out into the darkness and create, his hours of footage left to more talented people to assemble. Exit Through the Gift Shop then becomes that rarest of art documentaries, one that actually leaves viewers with a better sense of the gifted versus the phony. In several senses, Banksy has created a monster.—Joshua Rothkopf
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See also Street (il)legal: Q&A with Banksy