Exit Through the Gift Shop, the documentary starring (and apparently detourned by) street artist Banksy, had its LA premiere last night at the grand old Los Angeles Theater in Downtown LA. In our cover story this week, Banksy himself claimed that "the plan for the American premiere is to surprise everyone by not doing anything very surprising." He made good on that promise to some extent--certainly, there is nothing surprising about a movie premiere where free Stella Artois flows like water -- and yet, there's absolutely nothing normal about a movie premiere where the filmmaker himself fails to take bow. Was Banksy even there? Was he one the ski-masked piano player parked pre-show in the lobby--or one of the ushers or cocktail servers hiding under their own knit enigmas? We may never know.
While luminaries such as Scott Caan, Joaquin Phoenix and Ashlee Simpson posed on a graffitied red carpet, the line for plain folks snaked around the corner to the end of the next block. While I was standing in it, a woman in an electric blue rubber mini-dress and six-inch lucite heels strutted past. "Aw, look - a hooker!" I thought. "Just like old times in pre-gentrified Downtown LA." Then, when she got to the red carpet, she dropped her jacket and posed, and in turn was showered with the same spray of digital flash bulbs that greeted the aforementioned members of decreasingly relevant Hollywood families. So she was a famous person who just looked like a hooker...or maybe a hooker pretending to be a famous person? Who can tell anymore?
And that's basically the point of Gift Shop: in a time and place where fame is more easily obtained than training, and creativity almost always takes a back seat to marketing, distinctions between innovators and frauds become harder to spot. From the celebrities who turn out in droves to support Banksy's anti-capitalist pranks, to cover story on Banksy documenter-turned-pretender Mr. Brainwash run by this very publication, even the smart and savvy can be easily cowed into cooing over just about anything.
Or can they? We'll put that to the test with my shitty iPhone photos of the premiere scene, after the jump.
Guests were invited to tag up a milk truck and limo parked in front of the red carpet.
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A ski-masked man played piano before the show in one of the many lobbies of the Los Angeles.
Banksy's world is full of enigmas and ambiguities. Case in point: One of the theater's bars served booze; the one that didn't was inexplicably staffed by children. Subversion, or labor violation? If you have to ask, the joke's on you.