Saturday, April 09, 2011

[SFS Talkies] Exit Through The Gift Shop

Who Are You?

Is this a documentary or a mockumentary will be the question hanging on your lips after you've seen this film. After all, it's directed by the highly secretive Banksy, an anonymous British graffiti street artist turned filmmaker because of, well, the events that got portrayed in this film. Captured only in shadow and with his voice digitally altered, this Oscar nominated film may seem like a documentary at first with its focus on street art or graffti depending on which side of the fence you're in, before being hijacked narratively by Banksy to portray the meteoric rise of a certain Thierry Guetta, a French shop owner turned filmmaker and street artist himself.

In squeaky clean Singapore, street art without permission is highly frowned upon, and we'd all know by now how the law slams hard on those who provide our MRT trains a fresh coat of paint. But you probably have to agree that many of these pieces are highly creative and artistic, as seen through the countless numbers of works on display in the film as created by dozens of stret artists, only that they lack a platform to showcase their works. Hence the urge and preference to have their art shown to the most number of people in the shortest amount of time. Some, like Banksy's, even take on a three-dimensional approach, and being arguably the grand-daddy of them all, his works get mainstream commissioning with bona fide credibility and reputation, with many snapping them up for obscene amounts of cash even.

Then perhaps this film, if really made by Banksy, could also be a satirical piece on how a nobody can earn that shot to fame through the propositioning of "talent" done using the right references and connections, with society lapping up how art gets subjectively defined, and how there will always be those who pretend and getting themselves a fan base of sorts *ahem*. It's easy to get caught up in the hype without looking beyond whether the talent is real or perceived, or just that flash in the pan. For the audience, that spotlight gets turned onto Theirry Guetta, introduced to us as an amateur filmmaker whose obsessive exploits of filming street artists in action makes him the butt of most jokes given his talking head interview segments being fillled with countless of hiliarious soundbites, until we learn just how ridiculous things everything can be and just who is getting the last laugh.

Whether or not you believe Thierry Guetta really exists, is an engineered personality or whether he created those art pieces and had gone through the trials and tribulations as detailed in the film, probably the only thing that stands out is the artwork themselves, and how the process of making art, be it film, paint or those on the streets, gather subtle intrinsic value that can be blown way out of proportion. After all, just what constitutes art is subjective in itself, so you'll probably have to sit through this film and decide for yourself, a feature purportedly put together by Banksy when he discovers Thierry as an untalented hack of a filmmaker whose value comes from the countless of hours of video shot of street artists, their process and their works.

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