Daily Archives: December 18, 2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

This twisty documentary begins as a chronicle of guerilla street art and then flips the script. Its star subject, mysterious British artist Bansky, becomes the director, cutting down Thierry Guetta’s massive amount of footage into a workable frame. The subject becomes the filmmaker and the filmmaker becomes the subject. Exit Through the Gift Shop is a canny film that questions the nature of art, good and bad, the documentary format, and even our perspectives on reality (what is real when seen through a lens?), all with prankish humor and an anarchist’s eye. The film starts as an introduction to street art and famous underground street artists. Initially wary, they come to trust Guetta’s ever-present camera and then wish they hadn’t. At the end, when Guetta becomes a multi-million dollar street artist under the guise Mr. Brainwash, you’re not quite certain whether everything you’ve just witnessed is one elaborate put-on, a master practical joke on the commercialization of art and style. This is far more than a look at ordinary graffiti artists. These cultural satirists question the very idea of what constitutes art, who owns it or deserves to, and the overwhelming power of self-manufactured hype to hoodwink. You get to watch the birth of an underground art form and then watch its commercialization. We’re probably only minutes away from knock-off Bansky-like tote purses. See Exit Through the Gift Shop and watch the stylistic birth and near death of an art form you never knew existed.

Nate’s Grade: B+

I’m Still Here (2010)

Joaquin Phoenix may not be the most stable of actors, but anyone could have successfully guessed that his public meltdown and entry into rap, complete with a scraggly mountain man beard, was a hoax. Phoenix and his brother-in-law Casey Affleck worked out a two-year piece of performance art, with Phoenix completely committing to his egotistical, self-destructive send-up of actors. Affleck directed the exploits, which is another clue that everything is a hoax. Do you think his brother-in-law, and a respected actor, would film Phoenix going overboard, snorting coke, lying with hookers, having an assistant literally defecate on his face, and then try and turn a buck? I’m Still Here is like a Saturday Night Live sketch, or an improv game, that stretches on forever. Whatever points Phoenix and Affleck may have had in mind get utterly lost at a plodding 108 minutes. Phoenix’s Andy Kaufman-esque practical joke is admirable but that doesn’t mean anybody needs to see this ramshackle, artless mess. It all comes across like a self-indulgent jape between friends, a personal project that loses all meaning outside a limited circle of friends.

Nate’s Grade: C

%d bloggers like this: