Exit Through The Gift Shop - Blu-ray Review

''look at this thing that you all love', he seems to be saying, 'look how easily I can tear it all down'. If this is the message then it's a glib, pointless one'

It's very difficult when talking about Exit Through The Gift Shop not to get bogged down in a discussion about how much of it is 'true' and how much is 'fake'. Theories have circulated the film by notorious street artist Banksy since its première in Sundance at this time last year, most of them focusing on the 'character' of Thierry Guetta, a French hobbyist who starts off as a documentary maker without a clue and ends up as Banksy protégé.

It's ironic that the best moments of the film come from Guetta's (assuming it is indeed him behind the camera) ever-running film. The Frenchman who, it's quickly revealed, doesn't have a clue how to make a documentary and is rather just following these people around for the fun of it, manages to secure some interesting footage of a movement in its inception and of the little-seen artists carrying out their 'defacement' of public property.

As the film moves on and Guetta's own development becomes ever more obtuse it leaves you with questions to be answered about Banksy's aims. On the one hand it's easy to see Exit as a critique of the artist who makes art only for the sake of monetary gain; in fact, at one point, Banksy says as much, apparently rounding on his critics to declare that it was 'never about the money'. In a way, the film is fairly successful in making the point but it's always difficult to listen to people harp on about the lack of monetary reward when you're sitting holding a £15.99 blu-ray in your sweaty consumerist hands and so, as ever, the point feels full of slightly false candour.

Equally, the other prevalent reading of the film and of Guetta's descent into street art diva is that this is Banksy's tongue-in-cheek critique of the medium he helped to create. 'Look at this thing that you all love', he seems to be saying, 'look how easily I can tear it all down'. If this is the message then it's a glib, pointless one. Looked at from this view, Exit is both self-aggrandising and arrogant and serves little purpose other than as propaganda.

Whatever the message though, Banksy's crafting of it is at times extremely skilled. Throughout the vast majority of the film I completely believed in Guetta as a slight simpleton with a fascination in the street art world. Maybe that is actually the case. Banksy, so far as I know, has never actually said any of the film was faked, that parts of this are actually firmly in mockumentary territory. What if most, or even everything that we see is actually 'real'? Unlikely, yes, but if it's true then Banksy has once again fooled the world, and the critical elite at that. Either way he's certainly got us talking about it, which, along with the impressive early footage, is really the film's main success.

Look further...

'one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. Not only does it completely inform the viewer on a subject that may have been previously unfamiliar (street art), it’s also incredibly entertaining' - Inside My Movie Mind


  1. The film still managed to surprise me even after reading all the hype about it. Thierry understandably steals the show even though he is something of a baffoon if we are to believe his on screen persona.

    A lot of films try to drive home messages. I don't think the fact that you had to buy a blu-ray makes the 'it isn't about the money' message any less important. The fact that the message(s) pass seamlessly through this bizarre tale of art creation was enough for me.

  2. Edgar - I can see what you mean but I do struggle with people who tell me they don't do things for money. *Everyone* does things for money. It's just how the world works. I accept that Banksy perhaps didn't set out on this 'career' to do so but the fact is that he does now and the film is proof, making his preaching a bit difficult to swallow. I liked it, I just didn't love it.

  3. Simon - He does indeed end up in a wheelbarrow...?

  4. I would not swap your comments here for anything, Sir.