Writing about this film seems appropriate for the first post on a blog titled Media Consommé. Essentially, the “documentary” examines the nature of media, and the public’s consumption of it. What is Art, with a capitalized A? What happens to street art when it becomes commodified and sold?
Here, there be spoilers.
The documentary is only a framing device for the story that Banksy and his associates have chosen to tell. I refuse to believe that Mister Brainwash is an actual, earnest artist, and that Banksy and co. merely stumbled upon the story of this fan-turned-sellout. Most reviewers will easily accept that the story is a hoax. The obvious message relates to the idea of media hype surrounding the art world, the value of art itself, the ease with which money both aids and assassinates art, blah blah, something about Warhol and a Campbell’s soup can.
What I find more interesting is the use of the documentary genre as a frame narrative. We’ve seen this in popular television–The Office, Arrested Development (R.I.P.), Parks and Rec, and so on.The contemporary documentary genre-bending film that immediately comes to mind is 2010’s Catfish. Both films purport to be straightforward documentaries, though Exit contains more than a few winks and nods to its questionable veracity. In both films, the audience is left questioning the level of manipulation of the subjects by the filmmakers, and the level of complicit involvement of both parties.
Is Catfish the story of a curious young man drawn into a web of deceit created by a lonely woman–a story which also just happened to be filmed because, you know, his buddy just liked filming stuff and it was such a coincidence that this happened? Is Exit the story of a mentally deficient man completely misunderstanding the world of underground art he stumbles into–while also accidentally filming the entire process because, hey, he just likes filming stuff?
Naturally, I turned to Google immediately after rating* this film and did a simple query: exit through the giftshop catfish. I found this eloquent post which also noted the similarity between the two films. While I don’t quite agree with everything in the post, I do like this bit:
“What do the similarities between these two films mean? That both are equally staged? No. Both films are equally real, and the similarities speak to something far deeper and more true than either film does alone: in the 21st century, all of our lives are fake.”
Nicely put, sir.
*5 stars, but I rarely Netflix anything that would garner less than a 3. Time is short. Why waste it on Maid in Manhattan?