I tend to think that if a story’s good enough, whether it’s true becomes irrelevant, like that time I choked out a terrorist and gave Brooklyn Decker her first orgasm. But Exit Through the Gift Shop is one of those things people can’t help but question the veracity of, like some kind of bizarro Bible. The
Over cigarettes and McDonald’s fries at his studio on La Brea Avenue last week, Guetta [Brain Wash] recounted his path from a rough Parisian suburb to California, where he repeatedly reinvented himself — going from teenage nightclub impresario to clothing store owner, filmmaker and, ultimately, pop artist. If there was one constant, it was Guetta’s uncanny knack for selling Angelenos the cutting edge of cool.
The details of Guetta’s unlikely biography are broadly supported by a review of public records, which trace his life in Los Angeles from his arrival as a teenager in the early 1980s. They are also consistent with the accounts of friends, former business associates and employees over those years.
Of course, it is impossible to prove whether his latest incarnation, Mr. Brainwash, is sincere. The film suggests that Guetta’s artistic alter ego is largely a creation of Banksy, a notion Guetta doesn’t refute.
“Banksy captured me becoming an artist,” the paint-splattered Guetta said, surrounded by the stacks of art books and pop-culture clutter from which his work is derived — or ripped off, depending on your view. “In the end, I became his biggest work of art.”
Well, Mr., if it’s big works of art you’re after… (*points to crotch, dodges tomato*)
In 2001, Guetta met Joachim Levy, a Swiss filmmaker, and the two started making edgy videos and websites for corporate clients. Records show Guetta took a $600,000 line of credit in August of that year. A month later, he launched a new business venture — 3E Entertainment.
“Exit’s” producers have said Guetta never watched his hours of street art footage, throwing them into boxes unlabeled. But Levy says that between 2003 and 2006, he helped organize, label, log and edit the tapes into a documentary called “LIFE REMOTE CONTROL,” with Guetta as its credited director.
Levy is threatening to sue Banksy — and reveal his identity — unless he is paid and credited for the role he claims he played. Guetta showed The Times several notarized documents that appeared to be signed by Levy, the latest dated 2007. Guetta said they prove Levy was an independent contractor who signed away his rights to the project and promised not to disclose details of his work.
Despite an unvarnished anger for Banksy and Guetta today, Levy nevertheless says the story in “Exit” is almost entirely true.
You’d think they’d elaborate on the “almost” part, but you’d be wrong.
This is where “Exit” takes a mind-bending turn: The artist becomes a filmmaker and the filmmaker becomes an artist. Banksy takes Guetta’s tapes and decides to make the Frenchman the subject of the documentary, sending him back to Los Angeles with instructions to put on an art show — with the camera rolling.
“He gives me a brush and a can, and he took the camera,” Guetta said, adding that Banksy went as far as to tell him what month the show should open. ” ‘Go make your own show and have people filming it.’ “
Guetta was paid a licensing fee for his footage, according to a representative for the film who refused to elaborate.
Guetta, who had dabbled in art for years, took on his new mission with passion. In June 2007, records show he took out a $320,000 revolving credit line; Guetta confirmed the money was used to pay for the show, which he said he financed alone.
“I put everything I had to make it happen,” he said. “If this didn’t happen, I was going to lose everything.”
When the show fell dangerously behind schedule, Banksy sent in a trusted fixer, Roger Gastman, to whip things into shape. Banksy’s film crew was rolling as hundreds of hipsters lined up to see the debut. And the rest is history. [LATime]
The most credible part of the argument that Exit is “fake” is the idea that Banksy was the brains behind Guetta’s Mr. Brain Wash show at the end, but Banksy having a hand in it was already implied in the film. How much is the part that’s still unclear. I don’t have a strong opinion or care one way or the other, but I will say that not every stooge who finds fame and success is the benefactor of some shadowy genius pulling the strings. Just look at Brett Ratner.
Semi-related: One the sub-headings of the LA Times story is “Enter Banksy.” Haha, gross!