Exit Through the Gift Shop is a theatrical depiction of the story of Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant residing in Los Angeles. The film revolves around Guetta's obsession with street art with the continuous documentation of Guetta's movements throughout the movie. The movie sheds light in understanding Andre Bazin's viewpoint on cinematic realism and the varying notions on aesthetic and psychological realism. Perhaps, Bazin was contextualizing the culture of today in his expression of what realism is in film as his argumentation can be applied specifically to Exit through the Gift Shop and its multifaceted cinematic elements. To comprehend the aspects of Exit through the Gift Shop through the lens of Andre Bazin, film theory must first be defined.
Film theory debates the essence of cinema and seeks to provide frameworks for understanding how film fits into our reality, among the many other visual arts. Early film theory began in the silent era and was mostly concerned with defining particular elements of the medium, largely defining the works of directions and their emphasis of how film differed dramatically from reality. In the years following World War II, theorist and film critic Andre Bazin began arguing that at the core of film lay its ability to reproduce reality not in its difference from it. This would begin a formal academic approach to the context of film theory and further establishment of other disciplines such as gender studies, literary theory and semiotics. There are several types of theories within the study of film theory such as structuralist film theory, which emphasizes how films convey their meaning through use of conventions; Marxist film theory, considered to be one of the oldest forms of film theory that expresses the ideals of Marxism regarding property; screen theory, also associated with Marxist film theory, but advocates that the spectacle creates the spectator; formalist film theory, which focuses on the technical elements in a film; feminist film theory, which studies the aspects of feminist politics and their relation to film; auteur theory, which is an analysis of the director's personal vision of the film; apparatus theory, also derived from Marxist film theory, but more in line with the perspective of the representation of the camera and the editing of the film; and psychoanalytical film theory, concerned with the concept of psychoanalysis ("Film Theory," n.d.). It is necessary to analyze film to understand the fruitful nature it unearths. Film theory necessitates our experience of film and its importance to our philosophical understanding of the relationship between image and reality, between the experience of theoretical patterns and a wide variety of issues regarding ontology. The creator of the film seeks to provide an outlet for our understanding, and we experience this understanding through the purview of the screen. Cinema is distinctive in that it involves our perceptions and sensations and allows us to imagine time and movement itself. Cinema is "a form of art that has the power to affect and challenge our usual modes of experience by presenting new ways of experiencing movement and time. The philosophy of film, in turn provides conceptual analysis of new modes of perception" (Carroll). The emphasis that we place on film is somewhat defined by film theory and our intellectual capacity to grasp how the world of the imaginative is derived.
Realism has often been a prominent topic when discussing film theory. When examined through the arena of realism (as Keats perpetuated through romanticism), films have to "be evaluated as good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable based on their correspondence with reality. This requires classifications of what is real and unreal, even if the contents of such classifications are up for contention. In sum, the way a viewer views a film is strictly on the foundation of their reality. Reasoning is applied and the believability of that film is formed solely on the reality that viewer holds (Nakassis). Realism in film at its core must be depicted truthfully and without any kind of artistic conventions or representative elements as not to convolute our reality of what is being presented. There then has to be truth in the subject matter that is being presented that has not been toyed with in order to provide accuracy to what the presentation. This is why the popularity of photography as a visual medium is objectively noted as realistic unless the photographer has doctored the photo, there are no implausible or exotic elements that make the theme of the photo a murky one.
Bazin's argument in "The Ontology of the Photographic Image," is that cinematic realism is prevalent when seeking to understand the poles of psychoanalysis and Surrealism. In the opening sequence of his article, Bazin states "if the plastic arts were put under psychoanalysis, the practice of embalming the dead might turn out to be a fundamental factor in their creation. The process might reveal that at the origin of painting and sculpture lies a mummy complex. The religion of ancient Egypt, aimed against death, saw survival as depending on the continued existence of the corporeal body. Thus, by providing a defense against the passage of time it satisfied a basic psychological need in man, for death is but the victory of time" (Bazin). The crux of Bazin's offering is that the mummy complex is a defense against time, a preservation of life so to speak. In essence, man has a primitive need to preserve himself even in death. The undercurrent of the mummy complex metaphor is a statement on man's quest to vanquish time through the immortality of form. The Egyptians therefore were hoping to absolve themselves of the realistic process of death through the preservation of the body via a religious practice.
The rational mind in the context of modern civilization has sublimated this preservation in the arena of film. It "is no longer a question of survival after death, but of a larger concept" (Bazin), indicative of the perspective that film has a vision to be more aesthetic than psychological within the confines of cinema today. The cinema then, is an expression art form that is carefully crafted and created for the purpose of preservation. Different from the photograph, but complex enough to withstand time. Bazin writes, "we no longer believe in the ontological identity of the model and portrait, but we recognize that the latter helps us to remember the former and thus rescue it from a second death, spiritual this time" (Bazin). We derive then our nature of existence from the intricacy of the portrait and are able to keep this recollection with the confines of our minds through the vehicle of preservation.
Bazin promulgates that in his examination of Western art, his search for a realistic depiction of the desire to effectively stop the decay of time, was a complex one for photography and film offer the best solution. His purporting is contradicted however by his notation of the history of visual arts being not only aesthetic but of psychology. This is a unique shift in perspective given his motif of the Egyptian practice of preservation. Nonetheless, Bazin seeks to engage the reader in understanding his depiction of realism, by establishing the differences between two specific types, the aforementioned aesthetic and the psychological.
"The dispute over realism in art derives from misunderstanding, from the confusion between the aesthetic and the psychological - between true realism, which is a need to express the meaning of the world in its concrete aspects and in its essence, and the pseudo-realism of or trompe l’esprit), which is content with the illusion of form" (Bazin). Film then is basically a tapestry of realism to Bazin, meant to achieve one sole purpose: expression of the world in its essence rather than something weaved together as a chimera.
In further understanding each type of realism, there first must be a comprehension of both. Aesthetic realism is the superficial, while psychological is the real expression of the essence of the world in which film allows viewers to peer through. Yet, psychological realism is not necessarily truth, but an argument of one's particular truth as they see it. One's understanding of what is real is based on their perception and that individual's understanding of the world and its concreteness. Bazin notes that one's belief in true realism is irrational to a certain extent, based primarily on the processing of imagery and photography. This gives way to our definition of realism, rather than realism as it truly is. "It is rather, psychological: photography completely satisfies our appetite for illusion by means of a process of mechanical reproduction in which there is no human agency at work. The solution lay not in the resulting work but rather in its genesis" (Bazin). Our achieved understanding of the world is fashioned through the usage of illusion that comes as a result of the genesis of image generation.
Film is as real to reality as it can be in the sense that it comes "closest to or bears fidelity to our perceptual experience of reality" (Morgan). Morgan's argument is much like Bazin's in that our approximations of reality are provided through the use of styled images. That film has "the primary function of showing the spectator the real world as the aesthetic equivalent of human perception" (Morgan). Proponents of Bazin have stated that his thought process regarding the relationship between the ontology of the photographic image and the realism of film is one that is necessary and thus one must make a commitment in understanding. The reproduction of reality through film requires according to Bazin, a thorough examination. What matters for the psychological realism argument is that its true dedication is to aid the viewer in escaping time and death through the genesis of the image. Photography and cinema produce a realism whose ontology lies in its mechanical origins. Digital photography is an even further decline of the real.
Bazin continues to say that true realism is founded on "the automatic way in which photographs are produced has radically transformed the psychology of the image. Photography's objectivity confers upon it a degree of credibility absent from any painting. Whatever the objections of our critical faculties, we are obliged to believe in the existence of the object represented: it truly is represented, made present in time and space. Photography transfers reality from the object depicted to its reproduction. The most faithful drawing can give us more information about the model, but it never, no matter what our critical faculties tell us, possess the irrational power of photography, in which we believe without reservation" (Bazin). Thus, our understanding of an image be it film, photography or otherwise is believed to be real based on its representation. The way in which something in the film or photo is presented can transform our perception of that particular something. We believe what we perceive essentially because of the psychological realism of what the film or photo seeks to represent to us. Our understanding of reality cannot help but to absorb itself into the way we view something or perceive something, even if it was not necessarily the intention of the photographer or director to present that perception.
Bazin does continue to state that our beliefs or perceptions can be altered by what we are viewing no matter how we have come to understand the object we are viewing. Bazin continues "only the photographic lens gives us an image of the object that is capable of relieving, out of the depths of our unconscious, our need to substitute for the object something more than an approximation. That something is the object itself, but liberated from its temporal contingencies" (Bazin). Realism then is a mere vehicle for satisfaction through our demand of understanding the satiation of a thought. Whether an image is altered, distorted, our understanding of that image is from memory and "created out of the ontology of the model" (Bazin), which we have preserved in our mind. This ties in with the preservation example, Bazin uses at the onset of his article.
Our human existence when seeking to understand an image or film then finds it difficult to "separate the aesthetic from the all too human and material in works of imagination. This is especially difficult to do in relation to films, since they traffic with actuality in such a way and to such an extent as to put us under the continual temptation of seeing them as the recorder, the interpreter, and much more decisively the legitimator of reality" (Cardullo). The understanding of our reality from an ontological basis then is sophisticated in the sense that once we view something, our imagination often blurs the reality in our minds as to what we are actually seeing. This is due to the irrational aspect of realism as Bazin describes.
To theorize a step further, Bazin adds “herein lies the charm of photo albums. Their grey and sepia shadows, ghost-like and almost indiscernible, are no longer traditional family portraits; they are the troubling presence of lives halted in time and liberated from their destiny, not through the prestige of art but by means of an impassive mechanical device. Photography, unlike art, does not create the eternal; it embalms time. It simply places time beyond the reach of its own decay” (Bazin). Here lies the argument of preservation, which we continually seek to conserve and uphold the seemingly ontological.
So then is our understanding of realism simply an escape? Is the notion of preservation simply to bask in the conceptualization that we can leave our own reality for awhile through imagery. We can "enter a possible world and leave the actual world behind" (Bilandzic and Busselle) essentially. Our immersion and indulgence for the aesthetic is simply to remove ourselves from the actual world. In other words, through preservation (i.e. photography) we can move in and out of the world and continue in the quest to halt time.
In further examination of Bazin's argumentation, an investigation into the aesthetics is needed. To understand aesthetic realism, we must understand the concept of aesthetics. A realist might "say that aesthetic experience is experience that is endowed with aesthetic representational content. This means that our aesthetic experience represents aesthetic states of affairs, situations or facts. This in turn, means that in aesthetic experience, the world is represented as possessing genuine aesthetic properties. Such experiences ground or rationally cause our aesthetic judgments, which also have such realistic representational content. For example, on a realist view of music, the content of our experience of music is the representation of a musical state of affairs. This means that we represent sounds as having certain musical properties such as passion, poignancy, anger, elegance, beauty and so on. So the realist has an easy answer to the question of what is it to appreciate or understand music. It is first, to experience sounds as possessing the aesthetic properties that they do in fact possess, and second to judge that the sounds possess these properties" (Zangwill). It therefore can be said that the aesthetics of cinema follows the same viewpoint. We first experience what we see visual on the screen and the judge the properties of those images.
Our dispositions are firmed based on the stipulation that aesthetics we give to how we react to what we observe on the screen. The aesthetic viewer has to find some form of pleasure in the film he/she is viewing. To take it a step further, an examination of aesthetic pleasure must be defined. Aesthetic pleasure is the suggested realist view that pleasure “has a distinctively aesthetic content. In aesthetic pleasure, we represent objects or events as possessing aesthetic properties and we make judgments about these properties and determine whether they are pleasurable or not" (Zangwill) so we make our determination on whether film is pleasurable aesthetically based upon the properties of that film.
Bazin adds that photography was the technological development that "freed the plastic arts from their obsessions with likeness. Art emerges when the ambition of [preservation] moves away from the actual preservation in favor of creating a representation of the dead person" (Morgan). Technology embalms time, not the eternal and universal. The conclusion here is that cinema is a preservation of time and not the ontological. Preservation is the essential element of realism then that when "seen in this light, cinema appears to be the completion in time of photography's objectivity. A film is no longer limited to preserving the object sheathed in its moment, like intact bodies of insects from a bygone era preserved in amber. For the first time, the image of things is also the image of their duration, like a mummification of change" (Bazin). Film does not limit our reality, but in effect preserves it and captures a moment in time through the sophistication of motion, space and time. To Bazin, cinema's ontology is "change mummified," which allows him to turn to the question of aesthetics which is correlated to the specificity of the gaze of the camera (Bazin).
Since its creation, the cinema has often raised the question as to its cultural context. What is cinema? Why do we need it? Bazin saw "the destiny of cinema as the recreation of the world in its own direct image. But this potentiality of the cinema, the potentiality of an integral realism could be put in effect no faster than the pace of technological development permitted. Cinema is a language. The presence of this language must signify the passage from nature to culture, the intervention of human agency, the currency of thought. Bazin speaks of the language of cinema as though it was a necessary burden," (Wollen) thus Bazin's aesthetic viewpoint of the cinema was that it was purposeful and was a unique medium in expression. Bazin found cinema to be a cinema that was elsewhere, not in the reality but transparent and easy to contextualize and compartmentalize on some levels. His discourse was that cinema was a reflection of the spiritual depths of our perception and a revelatory expression of reality, much like the spiritual core of Kung Fu Panda.
In his focus on the cinema, Bazin brought into the equation the examination of photography as a way to ingratiate the reality argument that film was more or less possibility towards both the rational and the irrational. "Photography's aesthetic potential resides in the way it reveals reality. A reflection on a rain-swept sidewalk, a child's gesture - these are things that do not depend upon me to perceive them in the fabric of the outside world. Only the impassive lens, in stripping the object of habits and preconceived notions, of all the spiritual detritus that my perception has wrapped it in, can offer it up unsullied to my attention and thus to my love. In the photography, a natural image of the world we are no longer able to see, nature finally does more than imitate art: it imitates the artist" (Bazin). Bazin is exemplifying that photographs and cinema have a tendency to strip away any concept we have of reality. The inhuman eye cuts through our perceived ways of seeing when we view a photography or film. Our minds open up to possibilities that we otherwise would not have necessarily given any credence to.
Perhaps our engagement in film is the emotional particulars that is evokes in us. A film must have narrative engagement embedded in its illustration to our minds. We, the viewers are then able to "construct a dynamic situational model of the narrative, which allows for continuous monitoring of changes in time, space, protagonists, causal relations to previous events and action structure. This perspective helps us to interpret the narrative by means of the position of the situation and the motives and emotions of the events," (Bilandzic and Busselle) which are being exposed right before our eyes. The cinema takes us out of our own identity into the identity of the people whom we are watching.
The cinema allows us to "try out possible selves is an effective way of detaching oneself from one's identity and can be explained through the process of identification. We can take a ride on a character's goals and plans just as we would a rollercoaster" (Bilandzic and Busselle). Cognitively we are seeking to remove ourselves to glide with the narrative of the story. Bazin reasoned that much of our perception of events in images is built around our resolve to embalm it. We, therefore, can identify with the narrative world of the cinema because it provides a capacity for escape and allows us to achieve the embalming and reclaiming of time and expression we so desire to uphold. Moreover, our capacity to preserve time is achieved even more through the space of perception transformation. We delve into the characters and predict the mechanics of their realities in an effort to gain insight into our own lives and our own truths. Perhaps Bazin was correct in his presentation of indexing reality through the use of images.
Cinema reveals our realities rather than detaches us from it. Cinema allows us to be objective. It is "objectivity in time. Cinema is an idealistic phenomenon and what strikes us most of all is the obstinate resistance of matter to ideas rather than of any help offered by techniques to the imagination of the researchers" (Bazin). Can cinema provide a glimpse into the psychological perceptions? Can we delve more into the facets of individuals characters in films to gain an understanding of ourselves?
The subject of psychological realism has always been a fascinating one. Bazin renders it as a true realism of the essence of the world. Psychological realism as a topic is closely concerned with shining light on the inner thoughts of characters in film. Peter Wollen notes that this realism "constitutes an anti-aesthetic, the very negation of cinematic style and artifice" (Morgan). Bazin advocates that psychological realism is the kernal of an irrational belief in the power of photography based upon its processes of generating images. What matters for Bazin is that true, or rather psychological realism is dedicated to the genesis of the image. Bazin "makes an important distinction within the terms of ontological identity. Although he says that the image is identical to the model, he does not claim that the two are identical in all respects. He says that the image is the object itself, but freed from temporaral contingencies. It is easy to slide between two positions - if the image is the object itself, it seems logical that they be identical on all counts - but the distinction is important" (Morgan). Bazin's stance on psychological realism is that our truest sense of something, a photograph or film is based solely on the process of what we have interpreted from the images we view.
Bazin understands that photography removes the object from a specific position in time and that our interpretation of that object is based upon when we first view it. "The objects a photograph presents may not exist in the present, but they are not exactly in the past, nor are they in any other time. They are real but outside time altogether" (Morgan). We base our beliefs on what has been seen previously. Therefore, if we have seen a photograph of a snowflake, for example, we hold that image in our mind the next time we see a photograph of a snowflake. The image itself may be different in appearance, but its existence within us is based upon what has been seen at the onset of when we first saw that image.
But setting aside Bazin's essay for the moment, and simply defining psychological realism in film as a whole, one would note it as several different possibilities in how the character is observed by the individual watching the movie. The realism aspect of the cinema is in its believability to the individual watching it. "If the psychology of the character isn't real, if the portrayal does not seem authentic, then we don't like it" (Goldstein). This is why certain films have been more successful than others specially those that undertake the melodramatics such as The Artist. Our human side finds some connection to the film in which we are watching and this is in effect, when psychological realism is realized. Facial expressions, interactions between characters, body movements, all of these have to be present in the film we are viewing in order for us to have some form of believing it to be real on a cognitive level. We have to almost eat, sleep and breathe the film in our mind processing.
Psychological realism at some level deals with the involvement of the spectator with a particular audiovisual stimulus in film. The content of the stimulus must be conceived to be factual and lead the viewer to process information on a deep level. This is what is defined as perceived factuality. Researchers of film have found that content is stated to be factual when viewers can identify with the protagonists or are interested in the story. This generates a common involvement in the viewer and can potentially elicit an emotional reactivity to what is displayed on the screen. Gunter and Furnham (1984) and Murry and Dacin (1996) noted that perception of realism and its factuality is often correlated with the intensity of the emotional responses once has to material presented on the screen. The influence of whether a viewer believes something is real or not then is inherently found in their emotions and memory reactivity (Pouliot and Cowen). It is important to tackle the opposing argument to Bazin and his theory of realism.
At the crux of Bazin's essay, lie two specific propositions. The first proposition argues for a determinate relationship between the ontology of photography or rather the photographic image and the realism of film. The second proposition gives "an account of the ontology of the photographic image that is best understood in terms of a commitment, via the mechanical nature of the recording process of the camera, to the reproduction of an antecedent reality" (Morgan). Morgan argues that both should be rejected. The first proposition has allowed the idea of realism to be misconstrued or rather not understood and the second rips the ontological argument "at the heart of Bazin's account of film and photography. [It is important] to note why Bazin's argument should be rejected because the focus should be on his claim that objects in photography are ontologically identical to objects in the world" (Morgan). Like many critics of Bazin, Morgan notes that for a film to be realist, the realism must be a process, an achievement that begins and ends with perceptual experience of reality.
In understanding both propositions that Bazin presents, Morgan begins his analysis by stating that "Bazin sketches a psychology of art based on the historical origins of the impulse to make representations. He locates it in what he calls the mummy complex, where Egyptians sought to provide a defense against the passing of time by allowing the corporeal body to survive after death. Art emerges when this ambition moves away from preserving the actual body in favor of creating a representation of the dead person. Bazin introduces photography in his discussion on aesthetics as a technological development that freed the plastic arts from their obsession with likeness. In this section, lies the discussion of the ontology of the photographic image" (Morgan). Bazin outlines that the function of photography is to evoke us to question what a photograph really is and in turn allow us to argue the same thing about the cinema. Yet, photography is different from film in what it represents. While Bazin claims that "the photographer has control over the selection of the object to be photographed, but not over the formation of the image, he claims that we are forced to accept as real the existence of the object reproduced, actually re-presented" (Morgan). In looking at this argument further, are we to accept this as plausible?
The image that is snapped on a camera is a marker in effect and there is no intervention by the photographer to change or alter the image. Our alteration of the image is done when we examine that image at a later time or reproduce it in our minds. However, a photographer can exert control over the image that is taken by changing the lighting or properties of what surrounds the object. This changes the aesthetics of what is taken significantly. It captures a completely different image and we formulate or re-present it differently after we observe it.
Bazin makes a noteworthy distinction when defining ontological identity. He "says that the image is identical to the model, but does not claim that the two are identical in all respects. He says that the image is the object itself but freed from temporal contingencies. It is easy to slide between the two positions - if the image is the object itself, it seems logical that they be identical on all accounts - but the distinction is important" (Morgan). Bazin essentially finds comfort in both claims.
Both distinctions serve the purpose of seeking the reader to understand the ontology of a photograph, however, the idea of "being freed from temporal contingencies implies the possibility of forming relations to objects in photographs that are not possible with respect to eh objects in the world. Bazin seems to be saying that photography removes the object from any specific position in time. The objects a photograph presents may not exist in the present, but they are not exactly in the past, nor are they in any other time. They are real but outside time altogether. The phrase the photograph is the object itself [provides] a fuller sense of the distinction being drawn" (Morgan). Bazin is essentially arguing as Kant did that we can ever distinguish an object as it really is only as what we perceive it to be based on our understanding of that object. We have an understanding and comprehension of an object based upon our general human knowledge but that understand may not necessarily be valid in terms of how the object really is. Yet, this can be refuted. Our understanding of an object is based upon our apprehension or perception of that object. This perception can be changed over a period of time and be bent into something completely different than what was originally apprehended by the mind.
Bazin makes no qualms about the distinctions he makes in spite of the fact that his claims can be refuted in a sense. Bazin feels that “the separation is twofold. First, there are general categories of space and time in which we experience an object. Bazin says that photography frees an object from temporal contingencies, but he does not say the same with regard to space. We generally see an object in a photograph located in a spatial context; even in an extreme close-up, where all we see is one object; that object still inhabits a space. A photograph does change something about space, but this has to do with contiguity to what is beyond the frame. Bazin's use of the image of an usher's flashlight as a metaphor for contingency and instability of the frame suggests that, though it makes sense to ask what is beyond that boundary, there is no sure answer" (Morgan). But is his claim true? Is there no answer? We know that all objects take up space and have form, and Bazin essentially states that the photo of an object changes its space. However, there is reason to believe that something lies beyond the frame of instability of the frame. It could be purported that space exists beyond the frame, even if there is no surefire answer to that premise.
The issue of perception that Bazin presents also has been criticized. Morgan begins his discourse by stating that "photography gives us the freedom to form new associations, to have different kinds of relations with the objects in photography than we do with the same objects in the world" (Morgan). This is true. We come to have a better appreciation for photographs because they capture a moment in time of an object or an event. We have a new association with the photograph. A memory, in essence - much like the memories we retain from literary works. Our understanding of the object and the events to which the photography exhibits is something diametrically different from the object or event itself. In Bazin's argument, "the ontology of the photographic image is intimately related to his view of realism in film. Most tellingly, in a position he reiterates across his career, he claims that the realism of cinema follows directly from its photographic nature" (Morgan). This claim is not necessarily satisfy the understanding of realism. Realism, by definition is our understanding of reality and how it corresponds to the actual reality. Bazin's argument hinges on the idea of the ontology of a photograph and his argument is true in a sense because cinema is moving pictures that are made real through our perception. Film closely resembles the world outside it and because of this; there is an index nature to it, which Bazin recognizes. He fashions his argument to engender us to form a respect to the images of film that are transferred to our reality through our cognitive awareness. Film is "the creation of an ideal world in the likeness of the real. We can call this the model of direct realism," (Morgan) in that our understanding of film is because we have come closer to reality because of it.
Those in favor of the perceptual realism argument noted by Bazin support his viewpoint that there is a relation of the world on film to our reality. Bazin writes "we are prepared to admit that the screen opens upon an artificial world provided there exists a common denominator between the cinematographic image and the world we live in. Our experience of space is the structural basis for our concept of the universe" (Bazin). It understanding the common denominator context in which Bazin is writing, it could be argued that Bazin is emphasizing that the foundation of our comprehension of the 3D world in which we live is proven through the use of film. However, we can understand our 3D world without the usage of film as strong as Bazin's argument is. Bazin continues "the world of the screen and our world cannot be juxtaposed. The screen of necessity substitutes for it since the very concept of universe is spatially exclusive. For a time, a film is the Universe, the world, or if you like, Nature" (Bazin). We come to understand that for Bazin, film is the epitome of life as we know it. Our very conceptualization of the world is to be viewed through the images on the screen. The very concept of life is constructed within the world of cinema. While the argument is plausible, other contexts have proven the concept of life and the understanding of the universe. The problem with Bazin's perceptual realism argument is in his equation of the world of creation with that of film realism. He merges the two and purports that they are one in the same in a sense. The cornerstone of both our reality and the world of film is the criterion of the concept of creation. While there is some general consensus that the world of film is one that captures reality for the most part, and recognizes its contribution; the argument is fairly overreaching in many ways because of its directness and obliviousness to other ideals about world of film and its relation to the real world.
Another criticism or point that is often discussed about Bazin is his understanding of meaning. Bazin "saw meaning as something transferred into the cinema by the material and hence automatic processes of photographic registration; fundamentally, meaning resided in the pro-filmic event and the aesthetic importance of film was that it could generalize, through the printing process, and make permanent, like a mummy, events and significations which would otherwise be local and lost. Thus, his ontology transferred the burden of meaning outside the cinema to the non-cinematic does. The language of film would virtually wither away as cinema possessed itself of the integral reality which was its mythic destiny" (Wollen). To Bazin, the object hood of film was a process of self-reflection and rumination. The viewer in essence would experience many different procedures while seeing a film. Film had meaning and the viewer needed to understand the meaning and the direction of the film. Its role as a signifier to that individuals' life and the realism portrayal is evoked. This understanding that Bazin noted allowed for a rather modernistic viewpoint of the cinema. Film then would be considered a type of art that was composed primarily for the purpose of self-reflection and inward examination. Not every film had that purpose. Many films in fact, were seemingly developed to allow the viewer to escape from their self-reflection and inward examination to something less serious. Bazin’s viewpoints can be seen in the movie, Exit through the Gift Shop in many distinct ways.
Exit through the Gift Shop is a movie that is concerned with ensuring there is some authenticity to our way of viewing the world. The story of a French videographer turned street artist, the collision of art culture and psychology are what this film is about. In the context of authenticity, the film provides as true to form representation of both the aesthetic and the psychological. We feel the character of Guetta and his sincerity and his entry into the world of street art. The photography of Guetta is true expression and what makes much of it authentic.
The cinematic elements of Exit through the Gift Shop are what make the movie even more in line with Bazin's thoughts on aesthetic and psychological realism. The opening credits are a series of moving images of people enjoying their street art passion. Music underlines the opening credits. The song is an upbeat one. Banksy incorporates sounds from the moving images as the music plays in the opening credits. In doing this, the viewer immediately is taken in by the film and its aspects of reality as these are moving images of things that are witnessed by everyday citizens. As the film begins, Banksy sits down in a chair, wearing a black hoodie (not revealing his face) and answers a question about the film adding "that it's not Gone With the Wind," ("Exit through the Gift Shop") which while not a documentary, is a historical film with aspects of aesthetic and psychological realism.
The documentary follows the traditional aspects of a documentary film which are voice narration interspersed with images and interviews on the topic. The documentary itself has a particular science. It "relies on the authenticating effect of camera optics and photographic emulsions to generate images that bear a precise set of relations to that which they represent" (Nichols). Banksy provides the narration for Exit. The camera movements are interesting throughout Exit through the Gift Shop. Banksy uses medium shots, close-ups and extreme close-up shots for the most part, but does offer the viewer long shots of the Los Angeles area when he is discussing the prolific movement of street art and its emergence in popularity. The camera appears to use soft focus when Banksy is interviewing people about Guetta, though for the most part, Banksy uses focus in, focus out range in his shots to evoke sharpness to what is being narrated about Guetta. Lighting is important to Exit as well. It provides an interesting observation into the thought process of Banksy seeking to achieve the aesthetic and psychological realism that Bazin described in his ontological essay. The lighting is for the most part high-key and natural, with ambient light being placed upon Banksy when the camera focuses solely on him describing how he came to know Guetta.
Music's purpose in the film is to "help realize the meaning of [it]." There are a variety of ways of achieving an atmosphere in a film through the use of music. Film music "is overwhelmingly coloristic in its intention and effect. This is also true as the [individual who used the music] seeks to create an atmosphere of time and place. The effect of music as color is especially important because it is immediate. An important quality of color, given the amount of time the music composer has to achieve this design, is that it must be relative and have an ease in thematics" (Prendergast). This aligns with Bazin's thought of time being an important element in the world of imagery. Individuals must feel that they are stepping out of time for the moment when they watch a film. This is achieved wholeheartedly when viewing Exit through the Gift Shop. Music continues to inject itself into the film as Banksy uses instrumental music as there is a discussion on street art as being a "cultural movement" ("Exit through the Gift Shop"). Banksy seems intent on highlighting the importances of Guetta's foray into street art through the use of mellower upbeat music. The majority of the music used in the movie is instrumental.
There is a psychological element to the music that Banksy opts to use in his documentary. "Music can imply a psychological element far better than dialogue can. The use of film music is perhaps the most effective when it is planned well in advance" (Prendergast). It is difficult to ascertain Banksy's decisions on the types of instrumentals to use when narrating about Guetta, but there is a clear psychological impression that the music gives in that it gives the narration depth and feeling. The viewer can feel Guetta's journey in spite of never experienced it.
The majority of the location shots are outside. The geographical setting of any film is particularly important especially in documentaries as it sets the tone for the film itself. There is a kind of commonality with outside shots as shots that are done mostly inside seem to offer a confined space feeling. Outside shots provide a realistic impression in the mind that there is an endless amount of space behind what the director is shooting. The mood of Exit through the Gift Shop is straight-forward. Banksy does not seem to inject any kind of dramatic emphasis except when describing the upbringing and start of Guetta. The emotional feel of these scenes is one of melancholic positivity because the viewer comes to understand that through the lens of psychological realism, that with hard work comes great success. Banksy is fascinated with the scenery of Los Angeles, zooming in and panning the city's streets as the film's images progress the film forward. There are points where Banksy stops the music to stress the importance of what he is saying.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of Exit through the Gift Shop is the editing. Banksy uses cross-cutting, when the camera shifts to him as he is discussing how he first came to know Guetta; jump cutting when he interviews the various individuals to get their thoughts on Guetta and himself for that matter; continuity cuts, which allow the sequences of the scenes to blend into one another as well as the match cut, which creates a more aesthetic feel to the film.
The understanding and motivations of Guetta are what ground us in the realistic tapestry that is the movie. Bazin had it right then in his stance on psychological realism, that our sense of something is based on what we have interpreted it to be previously. The genesis of the image. Our assessment of Guetta then is based primarily on what we have come to understand about the psychological nature of a street artist and street art in general. We have to find a relatability with the character of Guetta in order for the film to be real. Bazin believes that "the creation of an ideal world in the likeness of the real" (Morgan) is what allows us to come close to reality. In other words, the presentation of Guetta and his street art and the various events that take place in Exit through the Gift Shop provide an approximation of the reality of the world we live in and a certain understanding of the visible authenticity behind street art. It is the magic of the camera that provides this realistic viewpoint.
What makes Exit through the Gift Shop real and appealing is the focus on the creative works of graffiti. It captures "art theory and defies the present state of art in the age of digital reproduction. Exit deals with mechanical reproduction through photographic, film and digital media in conversation with the legitimization of street art" (Daily). The realism argument of Bazin is highlighted even more by the film in that Bazin noted that "photography completely satisfies our appetite for illusion by means of a process of mechanical reproduction" (Bazin). We in essence seek to have a psychological conjuration of an illusion when we view photography. Movies such as Exit allow us to escape the parameters of time and death and glide along the world of cinema and its objectivity.
The first "question that Exit poses is what is art? This is the crux that is perhaps the most obvious motive of the film, and the film address this question in a multitude of layers that expands the idea of what art is. The film deals with the notion of graffiti as art by highlighting the few street artists who have gained some notoriety. This gives the works credibility that one not familiar with the genera may have previously discounted as vandalism. The second layer of the question of art that this film deals with is Banksy's art and the nature and significance of street art" (Daily). It is the effects of the representations of realism in Banksy's art that provide a powerful undercurrent for the overall tone of the film. Exit gives us a glimpse into the reality of street art as a specific subgenre of art. The storytelling "allows viewers to see the art for themselves and understand it as such because we see the differing techniques of the individual through their creative process" (Daily). The illustrations that Banksy uses, such as children, rats and imagery of power helps to achieve the aesthetic and psychological realism that Bazin spoke of in his essay on ontology. The combination of both types of realism present in Banksy’s art conceptualizes Bazin's argument on the specificity of the specialty of what cinema is able to do.
Of course, there may or may not be reasons to believe how real the characters of Guetta and Banksy in Exit are based upon the concept of realism in general. Our perception of "realism, which corresponds to the judgment as to whether the people and events depicted in a film are made up or not is divided into two subcomponents: syntactic and semantic. The syntactic subcomponent corresponds to the belief that based on message style, that what is shown on screen is or is not a distraction, fabrication, or artificial construction of the real world. The semantic subcomponent is the belief that the meaning or the substance of the message contains or deals with reality (i.e. whether or not the protagonist's behavior and reactions, and/or the course of events depicted in the film are typical of reality)." Additionally, psychological realism has to be understood as well. This involves the judgments about the degree to which the people and events are plausible or similar to the world in which the viewers live (Pouliot and Cowen). The argument of realism tends to fall more so in the discussion of documentaries such as Exit through the Gift Shop and their influence on our emotions and mental faculties.
With Exit, the viewer gets to enter a narrative world. The world of Banksy and his exploration of street artists. With the narrative world, "viewers are given the opportunity temporarily to be a different person. Green, Brock and Kaufman (2004) state that the transportation may provide the opportunity for identity play, for trying out possible selves without having to actually change one's life or having costs other than time. They argue that such self-expansion is related to the positive affect that may result in enjoyment" (Bilandzic and Busselle). The viewer, of course, sees the world of street art through the eyes of Banksy and his story of Banksy and others and their ultimate recognition as true artists. From a realist perspective, the audience can identify with wanting to be recognized for their gifts. Each and every individual has a gift and Exit does a remarkable job and deploying this theme through the anonymity of Banksy's face and voice. This is an important device that allows the viewer to become Banksy for the length of the documentary. We come to understand the pains and joys of street artistry and tape into the aesthetic and psychological impacts this has on an individual who is seeking to be famous in their craft.
Exit allows us to leave the actual world. "Leaving the actual world suggests the classical functional perspective of escape and may be achieved through any mediated or non-mediated, narrative or non-narrative activity that provides flow" (Bilandzic and Busselle). For the viewer, a relieving of the self is experienced as they take on the activities of Banksy and his escapades through the street of Los Angeles. While it is of course, simply a documentary meant to be experienced; the viewer is provided the aesthetic and psychological option to immerse themselves in the exercise of escaping into an alternative reality.
It can be “argued that escape can be thought of as taking a ride on character's goals and plans. Not only does identification distract from one's own identity. It does so by temporarily substituting one's own perspective with another person's perspective. For this reason, the escape is particularly effective. The narrative makes audiences experience emotions and events that are not accessible in [their] actual life. Viewers are confronted with extraordinary events and conflicts that the film's character eventually must resolve [in this case Bansky among others]. Intense emotions, matters of life and death, of sense and senselessness are at the very heart of every story that is worth telling and separate the fictional world from the everyday life of the actual world" (Bilandzic and Busselle). As viewers of Exit, while the world is not one of fiction, it is a different one from the reality that much of us life. This is why Banksy has to provide us with an aesthetic representation of what street art is so we understand the value that it holds in society and for those that undertake that form of art and the emotional states that accompany the art profession.
The effectiveness of Exit through the Gift Shop is that there has been controversy that is mere fiction. This provides an element of fascination to the realism presented in the film. "Surely Guetta cannot be real? With his dashing mustache and Inspector Clouseau accent, his long-suffering wife and his zealous risk-taking to film illegal artists by stealth?" (Ebert). This question zooms across the viewers mind as they imbibe what is presented. It is difficult to ascertain whether Banksy's story of hundreds of tapes being dumped into boxed and opting to make a film is a farce, but what is not a farce is the aesthetics and psychological output that Exit provides.
Exit through the Gift Shop is a witty, entertaining put together documentary that engages the viewer through the many facets of Bazin's thought processes regarding aesthetic and psychological realism. From the aesthetics of the street art that Guetta has created to the psychological emotions that Banksy seeks to create in the viewer through his shift from natural to ambient lighting, the editing options and music selections. The movie is without a doubt created by a gifted filmmaker whose mission was to create something that would allow viewers to escape, and escape they do.
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