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Filming every waking moment was an acceptable way of life for quirky Frenchman Thierry Guetta. After his mother died during his eleventh year Thierry was not allowed to return home. Exit Through The Gift Shop explains that capturing the events of his life on tape was Thierry's way of insuring that these moments would never be lost. Although Thierry dwells in Los Angeles a trip to his homeland finds him video taping his cousin the street artist.

During his stay in France Thierry records his cousin creating Space Invader mosiacs. At night Thierry films a man who works while his fellow countrymen dream. Friends of the artist known as Space Invader allow Thierry to record them hanging their artwork. Throughout the movie the director cuts to clips of Thierry, several artists are interviewed and you start to get a feel for what street artists go through to have their messages displayed about town.

After returning to California Thierry meets local street artist Shepard Fairey. Fairey's most famous piece is probably the iconic blue and red poster of then Senator Barack Obama. In the movie Fairey is the artist responsible for the giant signs commanding the citizens of Los Angeles to Obey. When the two men meet Shepard is photocopying a piece he plans to display. Footage of Fairey working rolled while I started thinking of buildings around my town and how attractive they could be to someone with an eye and a plan.

Exit Through The Gift Shop shows Thierry and his friends being accosted by the police. Several people are asked to remove their work, and without actually posing the question I think the movie does a nice job of asking the viewer to question what is art, what is not and if defacing a building makes it more attractive can street art be viable yet illegal? That idea ran through my mind while Thierry Guetta was traveling around the world chasing the ever changing, here today, gone tomorrow life of street art.

Eventually Thierry is accepted by the street art community. The remaining holdout is an elusive Bristol resident whose work bears the name Banksy. To disgress a bit Banksy is intoduced as the man who hung a piece of his own work at a museum. Flashing through his portfolio was in my opinion one of the best parts of the movie. My favorite Banksy piece pictures a little girl being carried off by the bunch of balloons she holds. Banksy chose an unlikely location for her which is why that particular piece stung my eyes.

Exit Through The Gift Shop is directed by Banksy who meets Thierry in California before his Barely Legal exhibit goes live. Fiercely protective of his privacy Banksy allows Thierry to film him at work as long as he stays behind him and focuses on his hands and arms. Banksy also takes the precaution of distorting his voice which I feel detracts from the film. Initially Banksy encourages Thierry to produce a street art documentary, however he is shocked at the appalling lack of talent revealed by Thierry's compilation.

Friends of the reclusive Banksy are unable to understand the Thierry/Banksy relationship, some good footage of Banksy discussing why he allowed Thierry into his life is available if you choose to watch Exit Through The Gift Shop. Banksy, a cutting edge thrill seeker, wants to provoke his audience. At Disney Land Banksy sets up a display which lands Thierry in serious hot water. While I admire bold moves Banksy loses me with his Disney Land display which touches an overly sensitive American nerve.

Two themes in Exit Through The Gift Shop are commercial success versus peer acceptance and the idea that if people perceive you as a power broker then you wield true power. Banksy's Disney Land piece remains a stunning example of how powerful provocative art can be. Towards the end of the movie Banksy withdraws his intial support of Thierry's street art documentary. Finding himself without a camera for the first time in years Thierry becomes a street artist himself.

The movie continues with Thierry selling his vintage clothing business and purchasing a vacant building. Banksy returns to England and the camera returns to Thierry who goes through a series of focus changes. Without giving too much away I think I can briefly touch on his Mr. Brainwash exhibit which spawns one of my favorite quotes from the movie, "I don't know who the joke is on, I don't know if there is a joke."

Another scene I liked featured a tour of the home of a street art collector. This woman claimed that collectors who own original Picasso's are also interested in the work Banksy produces. Naturally the film wants to establish street art credibility however Banksy's work carries an appeal that someone who studies art critically could probably describe. Defining an artist is easier said than done, I felt this movie helped me understand the unique way an artist approaches everyday objects.

Personally I enjoyed Exit Through The Gift Shop. I found it well paced with new thoughts about art, lawlessness and the cycle of rejection by the masses, intrigue by some, a gradual wider sphere of influence and eventual movement into popular culture. Ultimately I do not think of Thierry as an artist who pushes you outside of your comfort zone. To me that role was filled mainly by Banksy whose work I admire without approving of it which is likely the point of the movie.

Viewers seated on my couch gave Exit Through The Gift Shop four out of five stars. Banksy directed the movie which is why I say the joke is on the audience. In my opinion Banksy exploited his relationship with the French camera man, exposing him for what he is while profiting from sales of the film featuring the obsessions of Thierry Guetta. Your taste may not run along the same lines as mine, any local art gallery would probably appreciate your patronage however if you want to skip the cliche of life imitating art avoid an Exit Through The Gift Shop.

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