(Anyone remember Kujovolution?)
Introduction: The Review of the Review
Since Gift Shop is a piece of art that is commenting on (I think) the nature of art, than I guess I’ll have to step up to the plate and review the nature of my own review of the film (deep, I know). The goal of this review was not to make any interesting conclusions or witty remarks. I don't know why I wrote it. It's a disaster. Nonetheless, Gift Shop inspired it.
While reviewing my own review, I realize that my examination of this movie is just as confusing, comical, and (hopefully as) stimulating as the movie itself. Usually when you start a review with a quote it’s supposed to summarize a key aspect of the subject about to be discussed. Honestly, the following quote was the first thing that came to mind and it only makes sense to me in my own way.
“'He's a prophet and a pusher, partly truth, partly fiction. A walking contradiction.”
I love the conversation that art creates and I can’t in recent memory think of a film that made me ask more interesting questions. It’s too much fun. Gift Shop is the story of how an eccentric French shop keeper and amateur film maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy, only to have the artist turn the camera back on its owner with spectacular results. Billed as 'the world's first street art disaster movie' the film contains exclusive footage of Banksy, Shephard Fairey, Invader and many of the world's most infamous graffiti artists at work.
I can think of a thousand ways a documentary about street art could go wrong. You could glorify it as “the next big thing” or simply write it off as vandalism. You could take a subjective stance and loose the big picture, or take the objective stance and loose the passion. Gift Shop is some form of beautiful hybrid that surpasses all of these problems like a drunken clown pedaling through oncoming traffic.
The film really does defy any form of plot or genre. It's a contradiction because it's a fictional documentary and a dramatic comedy. There are so many layers to this thing I’m simply going to need more viewings to fully appreciate it but it is without doubt a very high form of art (that documents the lowest form of art there is according to our government).
First Dimension: On the surface (our first main character Terry) the film works as an interesting character study of a man in a Alice in Wonderland type situation. Mix in the some amazing montages of modern street art and that’d be enough for a recommendable documentary right there.
Second Dimension: Of course, than Banksy shows up. The movie takes a wild turn and our narrator/subject changes from Terry to Banksy. Terry becomes the artist and Banksy becomes the documentarian. Neither of them seem to know the rules of the new games they are playing and then we remember that there aren’t supposed to be any rules. This leads to a respectable and interesting conclusion to the second dimension that could probably be summed up as “an exploration of the nature of art and the rules/expectations that surround it”
Third Dimension: Finally, when I take a step back and look at the project a simple detail starts to bother me. The film is too complex to be a happy mistake. Banksy knew what he was doing all along. He’s a puppeteer who is able to mystify his audience with the fact that we really can’t deicde if he’s a creative mastermind or just drunk at the wheel. I’d say creative mastermind but Banksy himself would argue that he’s the drunk driver.
I’m going to stop at the third dimension because I’m a mortal human. The truth is that there are a thousand layers to this thing (and probably every piece of art) and to proceed with any further examination would be self-destructive behavior or even suicidal.
I used to encourage everyone to talk about movies, I don’t really do that anymore.