EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP Now On DemandDecember 01, 2010



On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP (FilmBuff), a recent 2011 Film Independent Spirit Award Nominee for Best Documentary.

When you EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, you’ve just paid for a roller coaster ride -- or perhaps an art show -- and someone wants to squeeze a few more dollars out of you before you’re gone.  You don’t get to take home the experience itself, of course, only something that
reminds you of it.  The seller doesn’t care whether you “get it” only that you buy it.

[Switch POWER to ON]

From the start of this Banksy-directed fauxumentary your wallet is already lighter and your souvenir is playing on demand.  By the end you’ll have to decide whether the corporate marketing machine could start with art’s most famous spray canner, run him through the spin cycle and crank out so-many-shelves of Brand X, displayed for point-of-sale consumption.  Maybe a Campell’s tomato soup motif on a can of spray paint is a clue, especially when that can is six feet tall.

[Insert Videotape]



This is a film about Thierry Guetta, an improbable street artist with the more improbable sobriquet of “Mr. Brainwash” and his journey from the proprietor of a vintage clothing shop, to Banksy documentarian, to street artist on the cover of LA Weekly. Thierry films everything.  Every thing.  



His obsessive filming catalogs nearly every minute of life in front of his camera, not because anything immediately interesting is going on, but as a safety net against death’s unannounced arrival.  His tapes go from the camera directly into moving boxes as souvenirs-in-waiting, saved in case a subject isn’t around anymore.  

[Press RECORD] 

At a family reunion, Thierry discovers that he is related to street artist Space Invader.  Invader is kind enough to bring Thierry along to various nighttime sprays and thus begins an accidental street art documentary, prior to any societal interest in “street art” as a movement and with all the tapes thrown unlabelled into boxes, Thierry-style.  

Fast forward a few years and an airport snafu and we find an unexpectedly solo Banksy in need of an LA chaperone.  With a friend to vouch for him and a lifetime of videotape behind him, Thierry begins taking Banksy around LA, camera in hand.

After successfully earning Banksy’s trust during an unexpected test of faith complements of Disneyland security, Thierry gains more access to Banksy’s life and Banksy develops an interest in Thierry’s.  How about all of those boxes of videotapes?  



Thierry takes Banksy’s challenge to edit the Mobius strip of film into something watchable.  When the result is fabulously unwatchable, Banksy suggests dropping filmmaking and picking up a can of spray paint.  Mr. Brainwash is born.


So what would happen if Mr. Brainwash took a lesson or two from his street artist friends and then triple-mortgaged his life to hire a team of artists to produce every back-of-an-envelope idea that he thought of?  And what if instead of relying on years of artistic osmosis to grow his fame, he rented a colossal space, brought on a PR crew and wound up on the cover of LA Weekly?  Could the do-or-die first exhibition of an unknown street artist create a star or would Mr. Brainwash quickly return to the actual obscurity and poverty of the (real) street artists he once filmed?  



Banksy hopes you EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP once you find out.


- Bill Nordham


EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP is also on Ed Burns' Indie Film On Demand Hot List.

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