I tend to recommend a lot of documentaries in this segment, and that’s probably because you risk less watching a documentary. Unless the director is blinded or insanely pretentious, at the very least, your time hasn’t been entirely wasted, because you’ve seen something new or learned something about the world. At best, you come away having witnessed something once in a lifetime. (And documentarians can’t fake having a story like that, no matter how much fancy split screening or dramatic slam poetry they throw it it — the scary truth is, there’s a lot of luck involved). Exit Through the Gift Shop is kind of like that. Like the second thing, I mean, the once-in-a-lifetime thing.
I resisted this one because, let’s face it, things everyone says are cool become progressively more annoying the longer you haven’t seen them. Exit Through the Gift Shop is a FILM everyone said was cool, about and directed by a GUY everyone said was cool (the mysterious, one-named street artist Banksy, which is like +1000 obnoxious/cool points), so it’s kind of the apotheosis of the obnoxious/cool phenomenon. That it’s even kind of ABOUT the obnoxious/cool phenomenon makes it meta, and thus REALLY F*CKING COOL, much to my great annoyance. That I have since watched it, late, makes me both infinitesimally more cool and exponentially more obnoxious. We have now reached the point at which hipness begins to decline and obnoxiousness begins to rise (from a commercial standpoint, this is the peak of profitability). In this case, that point on the graph might as well be marked with my face, probably looking like I just farted.
Just as an aside, if you’re still unclear on why things that are cool are also obnoxious, as an illustration, here’s the first picture I saw on Exit Through the Gift Shop‘s IMDB page:
The most obnoxious thing of all is that Exit Through the Gift Shop is really god d*mned good. It’s about Thierry Guetta, an eccentric Frenchman (is there any other kind?) who starts out filming the most influential street artists of his time (Banksy, Space Invader, the guy who did “Andre the Giant/Obey” and the Obama poster, etc). Being intimately familiar with the process, Guetta eventually becomes a street artist himself (“Mr. Brainwash”), becoming successful in ways many of his subjects never did. It’s the most perfect illustration of the point at which a trend becomes a commodity (and who stands to benefit when it does) that I’ve ever seen. If you want to understand the entertainment industry, watch this movie. Just imagine if in Overnight (another documentary favorite of mine), Troy Duffy had been a nice guy and a clever marketer instead of an assh*le, and had become a runaway success instead of a cautionary tale. We get to watch as Thierry Guetta, a real-life Forrest Gump, single-handedly turns an entire movement into a parody, apparently all by accident and without malice. Like I said, a once-in-a-lifetime story.
Banksy says it was 100% true. Is it? I don’t care. Its awesomeness doesn’t rely on debate.