From the Archives: CFF 2016: Chasing Bansky review

From the Archives: CFF 2016: Chasing Bansky review

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.
Originally posted on Cinema76.

In 2008, just a few years after tragedy befell New Orleans in the form of Hurricane Katrina, famed anonymous street artist, Banksy, left his mark on a handful of abandoned houses. A turtle, a few rats, a little boy playing the trumpet in the rain – all in the typical stenciled style of Europe’s most prolific vandal. But with street art comes the question of ownership: does it belong to the artist? The community? Or is it a transient expression meant to be consumed in passing before it ultimately fades?image1

For a group of Brooklyn based artists, the prevailing opinion is that street art belongs to whoever can get their hands on it. In face of joblessness, debt, and an existence that doesn’t allow for their own creative expression, they decide to travel to New Orleans to swipe an original Banksy with the hopes of reselling it for a large sum. It shouldn’t be too hard … just so long as they can find the painting, steal it without getting caught, and get it home in one piece all before another aspiring art thief can beat them to the punch.

What could be a typical road movie is, in the hands of exploitation auteur, Frank Henenlotter, something a bit different. Yes there’s plenty of sex, drugs, and rock & roll, but instead of focusing on the bonds of friendship, or on cinematic sightseeing, Chasing Banksy chooses instead to keep things breezy and plot-centric. There isn’t much here character-wise, but that becomes much of the fun. While we certainly root for this group of Brooklynite hipsters to succeed, it’s less about our allegiance to any one player, and more about the thrill of having a lucrative-but-illegal idea and getting away with it.

The most compelling aspect of the film is the way it dances around the aforementioned thematic element regarding ownership of art. While most heist movies present a despicable mark from whom the MacGuffin must be taken, Chasing Banksy has no such thing, forcing the audience to question their own allegiances as to who should benefit from unsold creativity. Should the Banksy piece be left to enrich the culture of the neighborhood, or should our cast of entrepreneurs take advantage of an essentially victimless crime? Chasing Banksy provides no clear answers on this (nor is it interested in doing so), but does provide a light-hearted good time and a handful of belly laughs.

Chasing Banksy has its Philadelphia premiere this Friday, April 22, as part of the Cinedelphia Film Festival.

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