[Review by Mrs Brown]
If you are looking for something indoorsy to do in Canberra this long weekend then I would definitely recommend you see the first film of the elusive street artist, Banksy at the National Gallery of Australia.
Not only well it give you 90 minutes of genuine, laugh out loud entertainment but it will bug you for the rest of the week while you puzzle over whether the film is a genuine documentary or a very well crafted hoax. Is truth stranger than fiction?
The film is essentially in two parts, the first tells the story of Thierry Guetta a Frenchman living in California, a compulsive filmmaker who develops an obsession with street art and sets out to make a documentary of renowned artists Shephard Fairey and Space Invader and others. We follow his journey in the back streets of Paris, London and LA where he tags along in the dark of night with the artists as they scale buildings, paste up their stencils and get chased by the police. It becomes his goal to make contact with Banksy and when they do, Banksy takes a liking to the odd but helpful Frenchman, ‘his facial hair is like someone from the 1860’s’. The second part flips the camera around to tell the story of Thierry from the point of view of Banksy and other street artists as the rather average quality of Thierry’s documentary emerges and they realise that the one person who has unprecedented access to their art-making and their philosophy is not quite up to the task of recording it.
For what is a relatively short film, it is though provoking. It explores the hype and commercialism of street art, the nature of obsession, gullibility and group-think and also the big question: what makes good art?
It is also a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, poignant and sad at times as we the film reveals the extent of Thierry’s film-making obsession and the long suffering wife and children. And speaking of rollercoasters, check out Banksy and Guetta’s crazy adventure in Disneyland. But sympathy turns to disbelief as Thierry reinvents himself as the street artist, Mister Brainwash and stages the show to end all shows, exploiting even his friends to achieve success.
What we learn is that scanning an image on a computer, applying a little bit of photoshop, blowing it up to over-life size and sticking it on the side of a building or spattering it with fluro coloured paint seems to be the key to making great art and loads of cash. But is Banksy or his fellow artists doing anything different?
The film also gives a tantalising taste of the world of Banksy, his studio and methods. His face is always in shadow but he comes across as deadpan funny and a regular nice guy.
Whether Banksy (is it really him anyway) is taking us for a ride or not with this film, it is worth going along with. It will be fascinating to see where the story ends and whose art survives the hype.