Banksy Most Wanted

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Banksy Most Wanted
"If you're looking for a primer on the life and work of guerilla (and gorilla) street artist Banksy, then you could do a lot worse than take a look at this." | Photo: Courtesy of Cross Borders Films and Scarlett Production

If you're looking for a primer on the life and work of guerilla (and gorilla) street artist Banksy, then you could do a lot worse than take a look at this documentary from Paris-based first-time feature filmmakers Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley. However, the more knowledge you already have about artist responsible for the likes of Mobile Lovers, The Well Hung Lover (pictured at the top of this review) and Season's Greetings (picture inset), the less this film will hit the spot as it is mostly a run-through of well-publicised news stories surrounding Banksy's work.

The directors begin with the story of The Girl With The Balloon, which on being sold at auction immediately dropped through a shredder in its frame. This becomes the jumping off point for a consideration of Banksy's 'outsider' and counterculture status in the posher waters of the art world, which is interwoven with a potted history of the various journalists who have tried to nail down his identity and a more philosophical discussion about the importance of anonymity to his work and whether Banksy, in some ways, ended up being swallowed by the very capitalism he aimed to undercut.

Copy picture

Given that Banksy himself is so playful with his art - and you only have to look at the subversive 2010 documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop to see that -  it's a shame that the filmmaking here is rather pedestrian by comparison. A series of talking heads, including Banksy's former agent Steve Lazarides, journalists who have tried to unmask the artist and critics, discuss the appeal and evolution of his work. They are intercut with shots of the artworks in situ and archive news footage detailing Banksy's various stunts, including his work in the Gaza Strip and anti-theme park Dismaland.

The most interesting aspect in the film is the discussion of the impact of his graffiti on both the communities he puts the pieces in and the art world more generally, as its here Rouvier and Haley capture the way that people who might not usually consider going to a formal gallery or art space have found an emotional connection with his work. Elsewhere, however, there's a feeling of the film being padded out with news stories when the scene has already been well set. There's no doubting the directors' determination to cover the ground and the angles, making this a solid starting point for anyone who doesn't know about Banksy, but a narrower and deeper focus would have made the film more rewarding for his existing fan base.

Reviewed on: 23 Apr 2020
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Banksy is a household name, but behind this name hides a multitude of stories, artworks, stunts, political statements and identities, leading to one of the art world’s biggest unanswered questions - who is Banksy?

Director: Seamus Haley, Aurélia Rouvier

Writer: Aurélia Rouvier, Seamus Haley

Year: 2020

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

Tribeca 2020

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If you like this, try:

Con Artist
Exit Through The Gift Shop