Film Review: “The Proposal”

“The Proposal” is part documentary, part love letter, and part art heist.

Whether you enter into “The Proposal” as a fan of Jill Magid’s work, as a lover of Luis Barragán’s colorful minimalist spaces, or as someone interested in the intersection of capitalism and creativity, you will find something to appreciate.  Magid’s film is an interesting study.  One that begins as a love letter to Barragán’s work, life, and legacy, but that twists in the middle into something else entirely.

Magid is known for her subversion of technology and societal systems, and in “The Proposal,” she brings to light issues of Barragán’s legacy and who has the right to experience it.  Following Barragán’s death, after a series of transfers, his professional and personal archives were separated.  His personal archive remains in his home in Mexico, while Swiss furniture company Vitra now owns his professional archive after it was purchased as an engagement gift by Rolf Fehlbaum for Frederica Zanco.  This archive, which includes thousands of drawings, objects, photographs, and more has been completely kept from the public ever since its purchase in the mid-1990s.

In her exploration of Barragán, Magid strikes up an amicable correspondence with Zanco; a friendship built on a shared love of Barragán, but constantly at odds with their very different approaches to his work and whether the public, especially the public of Mexico, should have access to it.  “The Proposal” follows Magid through her exploration of Barragán, and an eventual scheme designed to return the celebrated architect to his home.  While some may cast Magid as a villain when they learn of her plot, the fact that Barragán’s family is included and agrees to help her achieve her goal should tell us all we need to know about how important it is for Barragán’s work to reside in Mexico.

If you are a fan of performance art, architecture, or simply moved by an interesting story, “The Proposal” is well worth your time.  Beautifully shot and with a haunting and intriguing end, it will leave you asking questions about how we approach art, how we consume it, and who deserves the right to access it. “The Proposal” is now showing at the Ritz theatres in Philadelphia.  Showtimes can be found by visiting their website here.

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