enter Bansky’s mind by exiting through the gift shop

Was lucky enough to be the +1 on a pass to the premiere last night in Toronto – if you don’t know who Banksy is, please read about him on Wikipedia.

I know I have been keeping an eye open around Toronto for any Banksy work that may pop up in the naive hopes that he would travel to here in conjunction with the opening, like he has been for openings in the United States. Am I becoming inflicted the with inflated sense of typical geographical self-importance that Torontonians are accused of? Probably. But that fits right in with this movie’s themes of commercialism, shallow art stardom and manipulating the media – underlined by a sincere passion, humour and brilliance of the street art movement and artists.

That is, I crave a Banksy stencil in my neighbourhood because he is famous. However, Banksy doing a work in your area just might mean there is something horribly wrong about your environment – like the West Bank wall or Disney Land. Be careful what one wishes for, you just might get it – as Banksy found out when he needed a guide to “the best walls” in LA and met an eccentric young frenchman who filmed everybody and everything. My friend Simone commented “he’s like the Jacques Cousteau of the art world!”.

This film is a testament to Banksy seemingly stepping in and helping make sense of this “insane” and “retarded” man’s years of efforts filming … who finally becoming a stencil artist himself. The movie climaxes after Banksy tells Thierry he should stop trying to make a film and go put on an artshow, invite a few friends and “buy a few bottles of wine”.

Thierry, acting as if he was given sacred instructions from Jesus himself, creates a monster of a gaudy, absurd and huge exhibit much to the amusement and disconsternation of the street artists he is has apprenticed under for so many years.

This is one of the best movies I have seen in a long, long time and left my group feeling very refreshed and inspired about feeling like “outsiders” in the art world. This was not Hollywood nor was it contrived crap – the street artists who made this film are clearly not hypocrites but are professional, thoughtful and empathetic individuals who are crediting the audience’s intelligence with this sideways view of art history. I loved it.

And it is playing downtown Toronto at the AMC. Seems odd for such a mainstream venue for such an alternative counter-culture icon – and I am afraid that irony is lost on the businessmen surrounding it. Afterwards, some media planner dudes involved with the film launch were hanging around with us outside the theatre and commented that they wished they had more of a budget so they could have paid some people to do stencils on the sidewalk outside.

I think some of us get the joke more than others, and Banksy proves a true artist can play in many mediums on many levels at once. Fifteen hundred stars out of 1501. Whatever – go see it. It rocks.

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