Exit Through the Gift Shop

 

Exit Through the Gift Shop

“a Banksy film”

Produced by Jamie D’Cruz

Edited by  Chris King & Tom Fulford

2010


Featuring:

Thierry Guetta

Banksy

Shepard Fairey

Rhys Ivans


Studio:

Theatrical: Paranoid Pictures

Blu-ray Video: Oscilloscope Laboratories


Video:

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Codec: MPEG-4/AVC

Disc size: 23.96 (U.S) / 24.70 GB (U.K.)

Feature size: 20.98 (U.S.) / 22.81 GB (U.K.)

Video Bit Rate: 24.98 (U.S.) / 31.18 Mbps (U.K.)

Runtime: 86 minutes

Chapters: 9

Region: Free


Audio:

English DTS-HD MA 5.1 (48 kHz/1509 kbps/24-bit)

English DTS-HD MA 2.0 (48 kHz/320 kbps/24-bit)


Subtitles:

English, English SDH & none


Extras:

• More brainwashing - Deleted Scenes (5:15)

• A star is born (7:07)

• Life Remote Control - Lawyer’s Edit (15:00)

• B Movie (13:30)

• 2D glasses

  1. Stickers & postcards

  2. Oscilloscope’s DVD of the title


Presentation:

Custom gatefold paper case w/ slipcover

Release Date: March 8, 2011



Introduction & Comparison Summary:

Exit Through the Gift Shop the 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary, now finds itself in the enviable position of being available on Blu-ray (and DVD) supplied by two different studios: Revolver Entertainment in the U.K. and Oscilloscope in North America.  Except that Oscilloscope retains its wonderful box art that it had for its DVD (as opposed to Revolver’s routine plastic case) there is little to distinguish the two in respect to Image.  The Audio is another story.  (see below.)


      DVD (Oscilloscope)

      Blu-ray (Oscilloscope)

      Blu-ray (Revolver)

     

     

     


The Movie: 8

Exit Through the Gift Shop premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, where it was an audience favorite.  It opened in theaters to universal acclaim (97% on Rotten Tomatoes) and went on to become one of the highest grossing documentaries of the year.  The documentary is the inside story of street art - a chaotic brew of illegal self-expression that exploded into a global phenomenon at the turn of this century - and what happened when an eccentric shopkeeper-turned-amateur filmmaker named Thierry Guetta set out to produce the ultimate documentary on the art form. After spending five years videotaping many of the world’s most infamous vandals at work, he met Banksy, a camera shy British stencil artist who felt Guetta himself would make a more fitting subject for a documentary.


      Blu-ray (Oscilloscope)

      Blu-ray (Revolver)

     

     


Turning the camera back on its owner with wildly unexpected results, Exit Through the Gift Shop reveals what happens when fame, money and vandalism collide. One of the most provocative films about art ever made, Banksy tells the incredible true story of what happened when Guetta transformed himself into street art sensation Mr. Brainwash. By turns surprising, hilarious and absurd, Exit Through the Gift Shop is a fascinating modern-day fairytale.


While the documentary clearly states up front “A Banksy film” it is not so clear who the director or writer is, if indeed there is a director or writer as such.  My suspicion is that that it is pretty much the work of the producer, Jamie D’Cruz and the editors, Chris King and Tom Fulford, based on what they were able to glean from some 10,0000 hours of Guetta’s tapes and from the interviews they themselves conducted and that are edited into the movie.


     


Oscilloscope’s DVD of Exit Through the Gift Shop works on a number of levels:  The box itself is a minor work of art and includes some fun inserts.  (The Revolver Blu-ray box is standard issue, except that it includes the same selection of inserts.) The feature documentary is something of a biopic about a compulsive videotape photographer. A dispassionate Rhys Ivans (Notting Hill, Pirate Radio) narrates the story of Thierry Guetta, a French ex-patriot living in Los Angeles with his wife and young children in the 1990s.  Thierry, who prefers the anglicized “Terry” (our first clue) and whom Roger Ebert describes as “a combination TV pitchman, a cartoon Frenchman and a chatty con man” films everything, as if walking about life with a camera stuck on his face. What is fascinating about this behavior besides the obvious is that Guetta doesn’t watch anything he shoots, he simply stores endless numbers of tapes, many labeled with scarcely enough information to describe the gist of its contents, if that.


      DVD (Oscilloscope)

      Blu-ray (Oscilloscope)

     

     


Like the encyclopedia-writing infinite number of monkeys, Guetta stumbles into L.A.’s developing graffiti artistic vandals.  He follows them about, some more than others, like “Space Invader” and the soon to famous Shepard Fairey.  The more he learns about the phenomenon, the more he obsesses about the one artist missing from his catalogue, the brilliant and secretive “Banksy”.  When Banksy visits L.A., Guetta finds his way to him quite by chance and soon makes himself indispensable, showing him the “best walls” in town to display his work.


Banksy suggests to Thierry the idea that he make a documentary from his many tapes about the growth of street art. Cut to six months later, Thierry shows Banksy what he’s got, which he titles “Life Remote Control”.  Banksy feels there is no movie there at all and suggests to Thierry he leave his tapes with him, along with his movie, and tells him to return home and make some art of his own.  Voila! “Mr Brainwash” or “MBW,” Thierry’s new moniker.


     


How Guetta’s trajectory as an artist and Banksy’s rising fame came together, rather subversively, explosively one might say, dramatizes an important and rarely met question: What is good art?  After all, those who can, and many who cannot but do anyway, spend small fortunes to own a piece of what comes to be universally acknowledged as good art - or, at least, art that is deemed valuable and therefore worth owning.  When is good taste merely fashion?  And when is fashion the result of mass hysteria?  Can the art world be tricked into seeing something as important when it is merely undercooked, regardless of endorsements?  If these questions intrigue, or even if they don’t you should see Banksy’s first film, Exit Through the Gift Shop.  You’ll never look at art the same way again.


     


Extras: 6

Oscilloscope includes a number of extra features: five deleted scenes totaling some five and a half minutes grouped together in the segment titled “More Brainwash;” a 7-minute peek at one of Banksy’s shows, the “Cans Festival” in “A Star is Born.”  In “Life Remote Control” the editor presents all of what he felt was worth saving from Thierry own 90-minute film that never came about - only 15 minutes.  The most absorbing segment is titled “B Movie”: a 13-minute piece on Bansky himself, revealing nothing about his identity, but a great deal about the dazzling and relentlessly creative career of this most gifted artist.  A must-see.  There’s even a Play All function that embraces all 41 minutes of the bonus features.  As with the DVD, the bonus features remain in 480i.


     


Image: 3~7

You must put out of your mind any hope of finding two consecutive minutes of high quality image in this film for the first half of the movie.  While some of it is edited in from later interviews and footage by cameramen other than Guetta, the rest is made up of footage by a guy who, from the evidence, is not the most competent of photographers.  Fortunately, technology corrects many of our mistakes, the result being better than could have been hoped for or predicted, especially considering shooting conditions.  That said, even if the raw footage were brilliant I think it would have been difficult to stifle the impulse to make it otherwise just because the subject is what it is: hit and run, outlaw stuff, much of it shot at night.  Most of the interview footage looks good and once Guetta gives up the camera to make an artist of himself, the film starts to look quite decent, now being shot by serious photographers.  The Blu-ray edition has marginally better image quality than the DVD: deeper, ruddier, bluer color that shows itself most in the street art.


     


There is one thing that drove me a little crazy, and it’s a problem that exists in  all versions: the Oscilloscope DVD and Blu-ray and the Revolver Blu-ray.  Some of Guetta’s footage, both in the main documentary and the Extra Features, is stretched to fill a 16x9 screen from a narrower aspect ratio, perhaps 1.66:1.  That may not seem like much of a stretch, but once, but if you notice it, it’s hard not to be rankled by it. There are a number of unnecessarily fat people and flattened circles in this movie.  Evidently this is a judgment call on the part of the movie producer to maintain a consistent aspect ratio.  My feeling is that less damage would have been done by way of some judicious cropping whilst keeping the original shapes intact.  For example:


                 
    
                 
 


                 
    
                 
                     


Audio & Music: 7/8

In contrast to the image quality, the audio is, for the most part, quite good here. For their DVD Oscilloscope supplied both 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital, the latter - no surprise - to be preferred for clarity and crispness.  My personal feeling is that it is wrongheaded to try to create a 5.1 mix for a movie that was never intended to have one and for which it makes no artistic sense. I feel a surround mix in this context is a kind of sellout to the same mentality that needs to have their widescreen filled regardless of content.  For the U.K. Blu-ray, Revolver made the mistake of not offering the 2.0 in any form. Cheers to Oscilloscope for giving us the 2.0 mix in DTS-HD MA for their Bu-ray.


Moving right along, dialogue is always clear except during Guetta’s own footage at night, but that’s to be expected without the use of a competent remote mike.  Geoff Barrow’s excellent and punchy music helps make the entire film hang together.  Prerecorded material from other artists is also dialed into the mix with respectable results.  All the music comes off better on the DVD 2.0.


     


Recommendation: 9

Despite my reservations about the image and the choice, whether it be during the transfer or in the source material, to stretch the image in some places rather than simply change aspect ratios or perform modest cropping, I want to give the Blu-ray a strong recommendation for content and presentation.  The Blu-ray wins over the DVD for Image and, thanks to Oscilloscope’s DTS-HD MA 2.0, it scores over both their own DVD and the UK Revolver Blu-ray for Audio as well.  The movie and one or two of the bonus features are relentlessly entertaining and intriguing.  The documentary put a permanent smile on my face, while the B Movie tried to manage the smile simultaneously with my jaw in drop mode.


One more word about the packaging: When I first opened Oscilloscope’s box, I sighed for how much we who have embraced the high definition format have been cheated.  Outside of Blu-ray books, which are very cool, Oscilloscope has some of the best packaging of a single disc for either Blu-rays or DVDs, and all follow a consistent artistic line of thought and execution. Sensible, artistic, useful, safe, secure.  And they throw in a couple of cute inserts and artsy postcards, plus the amazing 2D glasses - about which, to say anything more would defeat the purpose.


     



Leonard Norwitz

LensViews

March 7, 2011


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