Sunday, May 30, 2010

Laughing all the way - Banksy

**Spoiler Alert**

Exit Through The Gift Shop

I'm going to play it safe and say that 'Exit Through The Gift Shop" is an elaborate hoax. Ostensibly a film about street artists and one eager and clumsy Frenchman - who follows them around videotaping them as they tag walls with spray paint and pasted paper images - the film is really about the nature of art and the art world. Although while watching it you won't necessarily detect the message; it is made with such a brisk and entertaining pace.

Watching it I was caught up in the whole thing until everyone in the film became critical of the Frenchman - Thierry Guetta aka Mr Brainwash. It then occurred to me that if the film was made by Banksy there is just no way he would put himself in front of the camera and openly be hostile toward Mr Brainwash while at the same time also interviewing him. In other words, if the film had been made by someone else the hoax would have played itself out more convincingly.

That said, it is a rather brilliant film specifically because Banksy fires his arrows right through the heart of the art world. There is one scene where he has an art opening in LA near skid-row in some warehouse. The centerpiece of the show is a real live elephant. Here we see the literal and figurative come together quite succinctly. Banksy knows that the elephant in the room is that people are willing to shell out thousands [or millions] of dollars for just about anything done by an artist with a name.

As Banksy spins his yarn our hero Thierry Guetta puts down his camera and takes up street art on a whim and takes the moniker 'Mr Brainwash'. Soon he is creating work that he and the art world feel is worthy of Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Space Invader and many of the others he apparently followed for a while with his camera. And he gets so caught with the bug he buys a studio and [Warhol-like] hires a bunch of people to mass produce intriguing art prints. Or, so it seems. He then goes on to create a huge show to be presented in CBS’s Columbia Square. If you are asking yourself, "How the hell...?" Trust me, go with your gut. It couldn't be funded by him. Banksy is all over it and Mr Guetta is simply fronting as an artist in the studio - which, again, is mass produced work. Hardly original or difficult if you have the capital, some graphic designers and a vague idea of what you want. [Warhol did it extremely well].

Anyway, the LA Weekly fell for Mr Brainwash's 'Life is Beautiful' show big time back in 2008. And it makes you realize that the press can be easily duped if the hype seems legit. [Although, who knows, maybe they played along?] In this case, Banksy and Fairey promoted the show. So what's not to love, then? If some unknown Frenchman did an art show of provocative graffiti images it would barely register a blip with most of us. But the value of promotion - in this case hoaxmotion - and some press coverage suddenly thrust this character into the spotlight.

So the bigger question might be, "What the hell is art?" Ah ha! Ask Arthur Danto who will tell you it's just about anything if people accept it as such. Have a problem with that? Look, if you're willing to shell out the cash for something you truly like then that's great. Watch the great documentary 'Herb and Dorothy' if you want to see pure art lovers who are really only in it for the art. But if you are merely a collector hoping to have the latest and greatest to keep up with the buzz of the art world then Banksy has a message for you with this film.

So yeah, Banksy's got to be loving this because he is at once showing how utterly bankrupt and gullible the art world is as well as showing us his role in it. But too, the problem I see is that Banksy is as phenomenally cynical as he is talented. He tips his hat to Andy Warhol as well as Orson Welles' 'F is For Fake' all the while making money and truly laughing all the way to the bank. See?


For reasons that I cannot fathom Roger Ebert seems to think Guetta is the real thing.

Is this Banksy?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fuller on Peckinpah

A reprint of a Sam Fuller review of a Sam Peckinpah film from Movietone News 60-61, February 1979.

Peckinpah’s Balladof Cable Hogue is a sensitive, emotional, surgical job on an American desert hermit without familiar sagebrush stuffing.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Panahi released

Good news

Iranian Filmmaker, Jafar Panahi, Is Released After Nearly 3 Months in Prison.
It's amazing in this day and age that filmmakers are considered a threat anywhere in the world.

His last four films have been terrific.

The Mirror (1997)
The Circle (2000)
Crimson Gold (2003)
Offside (2006)

Hopefully he can get more made after this ordeal.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cinema One Books

A year ago there was a film book meme going around the blogs. [Here, here and here and to link a few]. I intended to do a post of some of my favorites but never got around to it. So figured I would just do one on the Cinema One series, which originated out of England in the late 1960's.

Most of the Cinema One books I have were published in the US by Indiana University Press in association with Sight and Sound and the Education Department of the British Film Institute. Some were also published by Viking Press and just a few I have were actually published in England.

What was cool about the series - other than the well written film analysis - was its uniformity. Each of the little books have a number on the spine: Number 1 was about Godard, Number 2 was Losey, Number 3 was Visconti, and on and on. The idea being that all the major filmmakers of the day [and some of the past] would get one volume dedicated to their work by a renowned film critic in the UK. [Obviously the Auteur theory was in full swing by then]. Each book was paper bound, had around 175 to 195 pages and all had black & white photos to accompany the text. I am not sure how many there ended up being in the series. The highest number I have is 20 and on the back it tells me there was a number 22 on Val Lewton.

With the exception of the Peter Wollen book; 'Signs and Meaning in the Cinema' and the 'Horizon's West' by Jim Kitses [which has been republished] - these are relatively rare books. I've found all of mine at used book stores through the years although I found one on Abe Books last week. And, best of all, I've been able to find most for under $10.00. The exception is the Number 16 'Melville on Melville' by Rui Nogueira, which often goes for $100.00.

Currently, the BFI does do a film book series where by they have one critic write about one film. And each of those books is also a slim volume with good insights. But I really like a more fleshed-out analysis of individual filmmakers and their films like Cinema One did. [True BFI also has done a more recent series of film director books]. But with the poor state of publishing I don't think we'll ever see another series quite like this one. It's worth collecting if you can find them.

The final tally is here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Auteurs now Mubi

Well this is weird.
The Auteurs, a really terrific site for film lovers, has changed it's name to Mubi. As in a mispronuncation of 'movie'. [Note it is not Mumbai].

According to Anne Thompson the reason was because the site's founder, Efe Cakarel, felt that 'auteurs' was too difficult to market. So he got a bunch of ad agencies to come up with a new name.

So, essentially, because Cakarel couldn't figure out how to market a real word that has a specific meaning to people who love movies he hired a bunch of ad agencies to make up a fake word that sounds like baby talk but is [maybe] catchy enough to get more visitors to the site.

If anything, this is just silly. But in many ways it is also disappointing because it seems Cakarel couldn't be bothered to ask his core of daily site readers and users to help come up with a newer, catchier name. Instead, he sought outside help from folks who most likely never visit the site. Not too loyal of him. How loyal should we be toward him?

I like the site enough to check it out every other day; Especially the terrific Notebook section gathered each day by David Hudson. However, I'll still refer to the site as 'The Auteurs'.

Update: The best comment I have seen thus far is this one from someone called Gokinsmen

Still, I would love to know the story behind this name change.

“We need a new name…”
“Okay. What do internet geeks like?”
“Movies. Boobs.”
“I’ve got it!”

Thursday, May 06, 2010

demon sheep!

Mutton marketing!

It started with this political ad by Carly Fiorina, running in a CA Republican primary for Congress against a fellow Republican Tom Campbell.

[Longer version here]

Then the Democrats got on board and both parodied the ad and ran with it.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Most expensive painting?

Picasso's "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust" was auctioned for $106.5 million, which sets a record for an auction price.

However, it is not the most expensive painting ever sold. It is actually the fourth highest amount paid for a painting.

"Number 5" by Jackson Pollock sold for $140 million.
Woman III by Willem de Kooning sold for $137.5 million
"Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I" by Gustav Klimt sold for $135 million.

The difference is these were bought while the Picasso was auctioned, which is only slightly different