An expedition into foreign territory | The Velvet Café

exitThe vast majority of my movie reviews are enthusiastic, ending up in 4/5 ratings. I’m probably playing it safe most of the time, being cheap about my spare time and money. I spend it on movies I believe I’m going to like, either because it’s my kind of movie, a director I know about or because someone whose judgement I trust has recommended it.

But remaining in your comfort zone all the time doesn’t give you all that many new experiences. Sometimes we have to overcome our natural resistance and fight our way out of it. And that’s how it came that I decided to give Exit Through the Gift Shop a chance.

A documentary about a French guy who decides to make a film about street artists, but who eventually becomes the subject for the documentary – it sounded like the worst topic ever to me.

Couldn’t stop
I knew nothing about street art and couldn’t name one of the people involved in it – not even that “Banksy” guy, who obviously was a bit of a celebrity in a world I don’t belong to. I’ve never cared for hip hop music (which I associate to street art, right or wrong) and I find most graffiti annoying, tags being the human equivalence of dog pee. You do it to mark your territory and you don’t give a damned about that others think it stinks.

This was an expedition into foreign territory and I expected to become bored and alienated, not “getting it”. But I ignored the gut feeling, dismissing it as “prejudices” and trudged on. My instincts had proven me wrong before. And this turned out to be the case here too.

You see, I had an absolute blast.

I started my watching way too late in the evening, and the only sensible thing would have been to stop midway, saving the rest for the next day. But I couldn’t. I was so fascinated and amused that I simply “had to” watch it to the end.  And once I had finished it I thought to myself: “Wow! This was fun! I’d love to watch this again!” I can’t remember last time that happened.

Meta and post
On one level you can watch Exit Through the Gift Shop as a commentary movie about what constitutes “real” art, about commercialism and about a bunch of “meta” and “post” aspects, the kind of questions you can spend entire nights debating over if you want to feel clever or escape from your studies. The fact that you’re not entirely sure whether this really IS a documentary, or if Thierry Guetta, the French film maker, later to become “Mr Brainwash”, in fact is a hoax is also something you can dwell on if you like. Thinking about those questions is like being in a house of mirrors. It’s intriguing, but after a while you get lost.

On another level, it’s just a damned funny movie. There’s something about Guetta that reminds me of George Costanza (a little bit more successful than the original) and I guess that’s why it’s somewhat hard to believe the guy is for real. It’s too good to be true.

However, fake or not, it doesn’t really matter. Guetta’s weird personality, the well put comments of Banksy’s and the dry, witty narrative by Rhys Ifans makes wonderful combination that kept me hooked all the way through.

My expedition into foreign territory is over for this time. I was thoroughly entertained, even thrilled. And as a bonus I got a basic education about this world. Now I know who Banksy is. And I can acknowledge the difference between street art and dog pee.

But my disdain for tags remains.

Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy, 2011) My rating: 4,5/5

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