BANKSY MOST WANTED (2020)
Featuring Steve Lazarides, Craig Williams, Martine Berg Olsen, Claudia Joseph and Robin Barton.
Written by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley.
Directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley.
Distributed by Canal+ Pictures. 93 minutes. Not Rated.
Screened from the 2020 Philadelphia Film Festival.
So, who is Banksy?
Banksy Most Wanted is a pretty fascinating look at one of the art world’s greatest and most famous provocateurs, but honestly it gives us very little insight into the artist himself (or herself, or themselves). In other words, it doesn’t tell us all that much that we did not already know.
Which, I suppose is to be expected. The mystery of Banksy is a huge part of his appeal. (I’ll refer to Banksy from here on out as “him,” although as noted above no one knows exactly what the artist’s sex really is, or even if it is just one person.) Without the cloak of anonymity, his work would not be nearly as intriguing.
People obsess about the identity of the guerilla artist. In fact, Banksy Most Wanted features extended interviews with three journalists who passionately claim that they have figured out the secret identity of the artist. (Strangely enough, two of these three unmasked “Banksy”s are the leaders of well-known arty dance bands – Massive Attack and The Gorillaz.)
Are any of the three really Banksy?
Maybe. Maybe not. (I tend to think it’s the latter.) However, just the fact that people are working so hard to figure it out is rather brilliant on Banksy’s part.
A few people interviewed in Banksy Most Wanted claim to know the identity of the artist for a fact. One of them (his former agent Steve Lazarides) most certainly does know. However, they all play along, dropping little hints and distractions, but always keeping the secret safe. As it should be.
Banksy’s anonymity is his raison d’etre. Without it, he’d be just another graffiti artist. More talented than many perhaps, and certainly a man of bravery and cunning, but he would not be nearly as special and well regarded as he is currently.
Banksy is a practical joker as well as a painter. He is a political flamethrower. He is a joy buzzer in the staid art gallery world. Giving him a real name or a face for the public to latch onto would undo the very essence of the man and rob him of the thing that makes him special.
In the film, one of the talking heads suggests that Banksy is the most well-known artist in the world, more popular than Rembrandt or DaVinci. While I find that very, very hard to believe, he is undoubtedly the most culturally important pop artist since Warhol.
Even looking at a procession of Banksy’s “greatest hits” – both as an artist and as a rabble-rouser – is endlessly entertaining, so Banksy Most Wanted is time well spent.
Still, Banksy Most Wanted could have used a bit of the puckish humor and adventurousness of Banksy’s own 2010 documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, which is a much better film in general. However if you want to see a pretty by-the-books overview of Banksy’s career, his work and his mischief, you could do a lot worse.
(Ed. Note: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 annual Philadelphia Film Festival has been changed to a virtual festival. All films and Q&As will be available for streaming. You can get information on the festival at their website http://filmadelphia.org/festival/)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2020 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 25, 2020.