Holy fucking shit, you guys, you must see Exit Through the Gift Shop! It's a documentary so smart, funny, multilayered, and sublime that my head is still spinning, days after I caught it at the Arclight in Hollywood. (Well, you know, it was either that or Furry Vengeance.)
My experience of the movie reminds me of that crazy puzzle cube thing in Hellraiser, a magical Chinese box-like contraption that keeps you guessing at what the hell it is, as it secretly prepares to hook you with chains and tear the flesh from your body. (Lest you take my metaphor too far, Exit Through the Gift Shop is not horrific—it's just delightfully disarming.)
It's best if you go into the film not knowing too much about it, but I will set up the basic premise for you. Exit Through the Gift Shop starts out as a sufficiently interesting history of street art (guerrilla art that has its roots in graffiti, I believe), a movement unofficially led by the likes of Shepard Fairey, who created the iconic Andre the Giant/Obey image and the even more iconic Obama/Hope image...
...and by British provocateur Banksy, who's left his imprint all over the U.K....
...and has been able to remain anonymous, appearing in the movie in silhouette and with his voice digitally altered:
But then the filmmaker, an eccentric and obsessive fan of street art named Thierry Guetta, has the tables turned on him. Banksy starts making a movie about Guetta, who's life takes some surprising twists that may inspire you, may disgust you, or may make you question life itself.
But as entertaining as the film is on its own, the real stroke of genius is that you're certain to be talking about it for a long time afterward. On the surface, Exit Through the Gift Shop seems to simply be about the ever-present tension between art and commerce and the absurdity of the modern art world, consumerism, and fame. But if you walk away from the movie thinking that's all it's about, think again. And again. And again. At one point, when an interviewee is asked about an art event, he declares (and I'm paraphrasing), "Art is a bit of a joke. In this case, the joke is on.... The joke is on.... I don't know who the joke's on. I don't even know if there is a joke." I want that to be my manifesto.
For the love of all that is holy, see this film now! Here is where it is playing. And let me know what you think after you've seen it. I cannot wait to talk to you about it! (But don't leave spoilers in the comments section. Thanks.)