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Pina (2011)
Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost.

Pina is a feature-length dance film in 3D with the ensemble of the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, featuring the unique and inspiring art of the great German choreographer, who died in the summer of 2009.

Pina (2011)

Light, via Light, for Light

It seems the idea about biography — the standard biography — is to be exposed to great souls. The greater and more complex the better, and as long as we stay coherent, the more exposure the better. Apparently German filmmaker Wenders had for decades planned such an exposure of Pina Bausch.

She surely is a banquet of a soul, and any film that captures morsels would be worth it. I was not aware of her before being introduced by a trusted friend, and now I am hungry for more. She is something of a radical in dance, a Rolfer of motion.

Dance for her is something you must do, you must. Her troupe is drawn from all over the world and we see them all here: intense beauties, throwing their lives. She seems to have touched every one of them with some deep insight into the linkage among the urge to live, the danger of movement and the fearlessness to let go. Of each of these faces, the film has one minute or so, with their voice over stating some way that Pina pulled ‘size‘ from them. Then usually we see that soul in motion.

Sometimes we are captivated, sometimes simply thrilled. Once in a while we must puzzle about something that seems just silly. But the fact that the same disciplined passion can be brought to it all makes the puzzling bits all the more valuable. Pina died immediately before the thing was made and one wonders what she would have let show, what she would have rejected, because it seems so uneven.

We have a disconnect here that may not be so obvious on the first round through. Wenders is a skilled filmmaker, but his approach is storytelling. Staging and motion is in his films only as one of several devices to tell a story. Pina is superficially in the same mold: her choreography has ‘explanations‘ attached and the tone is overtly theatrical, but this is of a completely different nature.

We are in Pina‘s world as an artefact of the performance, an essential entity like a floor, and by no stretch the nexus. We are there to be performed to, to be scared, to be shined upon so that the dancers will know they have light. But they are also scaring and performing for themselves, each other, even for the floor. The moment matters. Short form — the immediate — is the only form for Pina.

Wenders in contrast is a long form guy, a relative pedestrian. What he brings is a disciplined, cold eye that can capture with perfection. His filmmaking has no passion, no risk, only craft.

I have to admit that I greatly admire what he did here, though I did not see it in the lauded 3D format. His staging (sometimes tricky) and some of the dance edits are wonderful. But I had the feeling that I had radios tuned to two different German-speaking stations and had to consciously switch my attention from the cinema to the dance. It would have been wonderful if we had DVD extras that just let a dance go without the cinematic imposition.

The one German filmmaker that I find worthwhile is Herzog, and that is because he is more like Pina than Wenders. He takes risks; in his early days these were also physically dangerous. His films are not very intellectual, but have visceral energy that seems to have been dug from Nature‘s absolute core. I wonder if he had attempted this film if there would have been a clash, a competition of such digging.

Perhaps it is wise to have Wenders, a placid but attentive viewer intermediate for us. But see, then we allow him to make the decision for us about how committed we can be in terms of reach into the space of these dances. And I want more depth — not the perception of depth, but participation in the fluid skin.

The only extra on this region 2 (!) DVD was a short interview with Wenders with such poor sound one wonders what he was thinking.

Posted in 2012

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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