The first half of “Exit Through the Gift Shop” is a documentary about the underground graffiti/street art movement. The second half, reportedly, is a prank. One half is entertaining and fascinating. The other half plays like a bad cable reality show.
The guy in the hood is Bansky, who is supposedly making this documentary. It’s the story of a guy named Thierry Guerra, who was always obsessed with filming things and became obsessed with street art. Through the first half of “Exit,” he follows street artists like Banksy, Space Invader, and Shepard Fairey (the guy who created the iconic Obama posters) around, documenting their risky and subversive work. I found a great deal of this fascinating and good cinema; these guys are interesting, they do interesting work, and their motives are curious and hard to guess. This part of the film climaxes with an installation (is it a performance? I’m not sure) at Disneyland that had me on the edge of my seat.
Then, for no good reason at all, Guerra supposedly decides to be a street artist himself, hypes himself in the press, put on a gallery show, and makes a lot of money doing so. This part, so I’ve heard, is fake. It’s Banksy’s comment on the commercialization of art and the presence of posers in any movement. Fine, good, whatever. The problem is, I don’t really care about Guerra, aka “Mr. Brainwash,” or his gallery show. I don’t care if he’s going to make enough money to break even, or if the show is going to come together in time for its grand opening, or just how pissed the gallery workers are at him, or any of it. This is why I don’t watch shows like “Bridezilla.” The logistics of big events bore me. I suppose if you like those kind of shows, you’ll find the second half wonderfully entertaining. I didn’t.