What a very cool documentary! It's slick, sly, subversive and supreme in its delving into a person and a subject that is excitingly crazy and utterly fascinating. Easily one of the best documentaries of 2010! Easily one of the best overall movies of 2010!
I think what's most compelling is the turnabout that occurs. A Frenchman named Thierry Guetta starts out making a documentary about British and European graffiti artists. He obsesses over one particular graffiti artist named Banksy. After a while, Banksy decides to turn things around, aim the camera at Guetta, and make a documentary on the original documentarian.
This isn't like a Michael Moore movie. Moore does films either about himself or that include himself on screen. In those movies, they're never really objective because Moore is always calling the shots. Here, Guetta who was the original documentarian isn't calling the shots. He literally has the creative control ripped away from him.
It all began in 1999 when Guetta was living with his family in Los Angeles. He ran a clothing shop but his real passion was his videocamera, which he used everyday. He taped everything with it. It became like a drug, like an obsession, an obsession born out of fear of loss, loss of moments with loved ones.
Guetta eventually started following his cousin nicknamed Space Invader. Space Invader was a graffiti artist who put pictures from the video game of the same name all across the city. Space Invader would always go at night under the cover of darkness to avoid police detection.
Through Space Invader, Guetta started meeting and following other graffiti artists at night, most of whom weren't vandals but creating interesting if not beautiful designs, designs that were often political. Guetta became their paparazzo, videotaping them at work. But videotaping these "art terrorists" wasn't enough. Of them, the most notorious was a man named Banksy. Guetta became instantly attracted and wanted to be more than just Banksy's paparazzo. Guetta wanted to be Banksy.
Guetta even gave himself a similar street tag. Guetta called himself Mr. Brainwash but gets in way over his head, but once Mr. Brainwash takes off, Bansky decides to flip the script on him. Guetta had intended to make a movie about the graffiti artists but once the truth about that is revealed, Banksy feels like he has to expose Mr. Brainwash for what he truly is.
There was a great quote from Banksy where he said, "Mr. Brainwash is a force of nature, he's a phenomenon. And I don't mean that in a good way." Guetta is at first an affable accomplice to Banksy but after a while becomes an annoyance. While it's not mean-spirited, rarely is a movie made about someone where the filmmaker doesn't like the person being filmed. Even infamous artists like Sheperd Fairey who Guetta befriends in this underground world turn against him.
Yet, this is perhaps one of the best kinds of films. It is an insane and intense character study. It's funny. It's clever. It's about people whom you don't often see. It's a great commentary on art, artistry and the clash of celebrity. For capturing some great moments, for addressing the elephant in the room and for making Disneyland seem like Guantanamo Bay, this film is très magnifique!