By Aldo Padilla

The Chilean documentary Stealing Rodin (Robar a Rodin, 2017) starts from the idea of the presence-absence of a work of art, idea that emerges from the theft of a work by the French sculptor Rodin by an art student, fact which generated an enormous amount of visits to the museum showing the exposition. The thief posed that his robbery was part of a performance which showed that the absence of the work had an artistic justification, an effect on society which made people move massively towards the empty expo. “We don’t appreciate something until we lose it”. In the case of Mexican film Museum (Museo), another premise is added: one can’t appreciate something which one doesn’t know has been lost.

The internal process of the protagonist in Museum is similar: what is it that he has and what is he about to lose? What defines his stay in this world?: random small jobs and unwanted university studies, a family that looks at himself in a patronizing way and a friend whose admiration allows the protagonist to manipulate him, moving away from the complicity of friendhsip. The theft of the museum is shown just as an excuse towards the immobility of everything, as a way to awake a small bug in a country that doesn’t seem to care about its legacy until it’s gone. All this treatment is handled with certain cynicism by filmmaker Alonso Ruizpalacios, who puts some effort in portraying the constant contradictions of his lead character, from his contagious skepticism for some Mexican culture imposed traditions, or on his discourse on culture pillaging, a culture he exploits as well.

The physical side of the film holds it through the majority of its two hours, although this starts to weaken as one slowly distances oneself from the viewing. This happens because the film foundations are somewhat weak: not its empathy nor its visual power are particularly strong, possibly because its main weight lies in its self-conscience on cinema, which is based in the constant references to classical movies. Despite that, those moments allows the film to breathe, specially when it seems to choke with its protagonist’s despair or the ineptitude of the State, something which is heavily caricaturized when it appears.

Museum looks to connect to its audience through its casting, star actors that feel comfortable and natural in their roles. It also turns to light situations, thriller effects and random moments of intense sensuality that seek to recover keep the attention of the audience whenever the story seems to be stuck. This is what ultimately defines the film, these small life savers that aren’t consistent enough to transform Museum in the great film expected by the director of Gueros. It’s not a pretentious film, but the bet is too high, contrasted with the simplicity and honesty of his previous work.

Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios
Script: Manuel Alcalá, Alonso Ruizpalacios
Cinematography: Damian Garcia
Editing: Yibran Asuad
Music: Tomas Barreiro
Producers: Gerardo Gatica, Alberto Müffelmann, Ramiro Ruiz, Manuel Alcalá
México, 2018.