My Favorite Film of the Year (So Far): "Exit Through the Gift Shop"

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.)


  1. I too really enjoyed this film. I found it very interesting how you can never truly trust the "director" Banksy. It works as an example of and a statement on the "Capital A" Art world. This movie is also an example of how little things change. The street is always being co-opted by the establishent, and often the street seems to be thumbing its nose as it puts money in its pockets.


  2. Bill, I'm glad you dug this movie. I think it resonates most with people who are artists or who appreciate art, but fans of subversion are sure to get a kick out of it too.

  3. Seeing it this week! We will discuss.

    Have you seen the movie, Beautiful Losers? Oh please watch it! :)


  5. It opens here this weekend. We'll be in Seattle though but we'll try to catch it the following weekend. I'll e-mail after I do. :)

    Thanks for the tip on a good movie. Watched the preview. I'm hooked.

  6. I'll also tell a director friend of mine about this.. the short she's made is all about street art, with a very famous NYC artist doing the art we used in the film.

  7. Superbadfriend, I will put it in my Netflix queue. Thanks!

    Bil and Quin, yes, I would love to chat with you about it!

  8. Saw it. Loved it.

    You were right.

    Really fascinating subject.

    Without being too much of a spoiler I think the reality of the film's origin is right in the opening credit.

    And in the narration.

    Follow the money.


  9. Louise, we'll have to talk offline about this because I want to discuss the "secret."