Documentary Movie Review: Visages, Villages (2017) #atozchallenge

This is my entry for “V” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Previous “V” documentaries I’ve reviewed include Vernon, Florida and Virunga.

Title: Visages, Villages
Release Date: June 28, 2017
Director: Agnès Varda and JR
Production Company: Cine Tamaris | JRSA | Rouge International | Arte France Cinema | Arches Films

This movie is made by Agnès Varda, a movie director of the French New Wave of films such as Cleo, from 5 to 7 (1962), and a street artist named JR. Together they travel through France in a van which includes a photo booth that can print out large-scale photographs.  They meet with local people, take their photographs, and then paste them on the walls of various buildings.  Sites include mostly-abandoned miners’ houses (where they past up images of miners and the last remaining occupant), an organic goat farm, a chemical factory (where the workers from different shifts get to be featured side by side), a shipping port (where the wives of three dockworkers are depicted on a stack of shipping containers) and the ruins of a German bunker in Normandy (where they put up a photo Varda took in the 1960s of a colleague who is now deceased).

The movie has a populist feel as they meet ordinary French people, learn about their lives, and celebrate them.  It is also a sweet depiction of their friendship, especially when they meet JR’s grandmother and when JR comforts Varda after they attempt to meet her old friend Jean-Luc Godard, but Godard plays a trick on them and doesn’t show.  A recurring theme is the eyes, as Varda complains about how JR always hides his eyes behind sunglasses, while Varda is losing her vision.

This movie is quirky and sweet and sprawling, and its hard to describe what it’s really “about,” but I really enjoyed watching it.

Rating: ****

Movie Review: Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010) #atozchallenge

This is my entry for “E” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. This is the first”E” documentary I’ve reviewed.

TitleExit Through the Gift Shop
Release Date: January 24, 2010
Director: Banksy
Production Company: Paranoid Pictures

This is called “A Banksy Film,” but right at the beginning Banksy (or someone claiming to be Banksy since his face and voice are obstructed) says it’s actually about someone he finds more interesting. That person is a French immigrant to Los Angeles who runs a consignment shop,  Thierry Guetta.  Guetta has a hobby of videotaping just about anything going on his life and through a cousin known as Invader he’s introduced to the underground world of street art.  He soon begins following and filming some of the most famed street artists at work including Shepard Fairey, and ultimately Banksy.

While purportedly working on a documentary about street artists, Guetta has no experience editing and producing a movie and ends up with hundreds of hours of unwatched film.  About 2/3’s of the way through Exit Through the Gift Shop, the perspective shifts and ends up following Guetta as he takes up street art himself under the name Mr. Brainwash and setting up a ludicrously oversized gallery exhibition in Los Angeles.  The tension in the later parts of the film weighs heavily on Guetta clearly having no skill as an artist or experience putting on an exhibition, but ultimately drawing a huge audience and making huge profits in art sales (much to the disgust of the experienced street artists).

There are questions about whether this movie is a hoax and even if Guetta is a real person or an actor, perhaps even the real Banksy.  My impression is that parts of it are true, such as Guetta really being a hanger-on obsessed  with filming street artists, whereas the exhibition was likely put together by Banksy and others using Guetta as the front in an attempt to parody the consumerist culture of the art world.  At least I hope Guetta was in on the joke.

What Can One Learn From Watching This Documentary:

Hoax or not, Exit Through the Gift Shop was an introduction to me of many prominent street artists and the methods of their work.  As a film it also works as a prompt to question media and learning to distinguish between what is real and what the creators are trying to make you believe.

If You Like This You Might Also Want To …: Watch The Case of the Grinning Cat which documents the cultural phenomenon of a work of street art in Paris in the early 2000s. unSpun is a guidebook to sorting fact from fiction.

Source: I watched this movie on Netflix streaming.

Rating: ***