Monday, April 19, 2010

No Elephants Were Harmed in the Making of this Movie?

Jeff and I took in a matinee today at my tied-for-second-favorite theater in San Francisco, the Embarcadero Cinema. They always run the newest foreign films, plus they offer nutritional yeast for the popcorn and sell veggie dogs at the concession stand. (My first favorite theater is The Clay, for the nutritional yeast, the single screen, intimate Art Deco lobby, and great location. The other tied-for-second theater is The Balboa, because they let you in free on your birthday AND have veggie dogs.)

The flick* we went to see was called "Exit Through The Gift Shop," which I just figured out as I type this must be a reference to a scene wherein the film's primary subject, a guy named Thierry Guetta, gets busted at Disneyland for being at the scene of an art crime (Banksy did a little Guantanamo-themed thing at Thunder Mountain and Thierry documented it). He ends up getting ruthlessly interrogated by Disney cops, then getting released after he stealthily deletes the evidence. I'm guessing they must have told him to, um, Exit Through The Gift Shop. That makes sense, doesn't it?!

OK: so this film was advertised as a "Banksy documentary," but it was really more about this other guy Thierry, a frenchie who lives in LA and got himself all mixed up in the renegade street-art scene by way of his cousin, the Paris-based arteest known as Space Invader. Anyone who's been to Paris in the last decade has seen his work (it's glued onto buildings, monuments, and streets throughout Paris), and from this film I learned a lot more about this crafty feller and some of his creative cohorts around the globe.

I recommend this movie, but I have to give a disclaimer, which is that for animal people (and just plain smart, sensitive people in general), there's a disturbing scene in which an elephant is delivered in the back of a crappy U-Haul-type truck to Banksy's 2006 LA art opening. That was bad enough, but then they painted the poor beast fuchsia ("with children's finger paint") and stenciled her with fleur de lys before turning her into a living art installation. It was very disturbing.

After seeing some of Banksy's work, I really thought he might've been hip (and sensitive) to issues relating to animal exploitation within the broader framework of contemporary social issues, but apparently not. Why is it that seemingly smart, talented people in tune with complex human-oriented concerns can miss (or dismiss) those connections that are so obvious?

P.S. At film's end, as the credits rolled, a message telling us that "No Elephants Were Harmed in the Making of this Film" appeared. I didn't feel any better about it.

P.P.S. I didn't take the Space Invaders photo pictured here, but the person who did deserves credit, which you'll find here)

* In France, slang for "cop" is "flic." If you're in Paris doing some guerrilla street art and hear someone shout, "les flics!" you better make a run for it!


  1. i am bummed and surprised Banksy did that to the elephant. it is also weird, because Hermes did that in an ad campaign a few years back - fuscia and flowers too. which came first?

    on a positive note, embarcadero rocks. i will have to go there soon but i suck at seeing movies. (i can't believe i missed The Last Station.)

  2. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!



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