A documentary by Wim Wenders. In English, German, French, and Portuguese with English subtitles. Rated G. Opens Friday, January 27, at the Park Theatre
Cinema is always, first and foremost, about the art of movement through space. Ballet and dance in general, however, have not been well served by motion pictures, which tend to either preserve the stolid stage perspective or chop fluid leaps and twirls into celluloid mincemeat.
And so it is that 3-D comes to dance, or at least to director Wim Wenders, who set out to capture the circumferential qualities of Pina Bausch’s tanztheater in the new/old medium. (First Werner Herzog and now Wim? What’s with the German art-house auteurs and 3-D?) Sadly, Bausch died of cancer in 2009, just days before her scheduled shooting of this compendium of her highly expressive works. And, thus, Pina becomes a tribute—with key dancers, in a riot of languages—occasionally illuminating the late choreographer’s process, which was far more intuitive than technical.
The film misleads slightly by starting with its longest performance: Igor Stravinsky’s atavistic The Rite of Spring, danced on a stage covered with rich brown dirt. Bausch’s themes of fertility and rebirth, as well as fragile trust between men and women, are on, literally, earthy display here. Other pieces are shorter (one has rain as its operating motif) and some leave the theatre altogether, with a particularly striking pas de deux taking place on a busy street corner and another dance happening in a gondola in the woodsy Wuppertal region near Bausch’s home in western Germany.
The most lasting images may come from her work Café Müller, previously glimpsed in Pedro Almodóvar’s Talk to Her. Bausch grew up in her parents’ restaurant, and this beautifully choreographed tangle of chairs, legs, and other obstacles captures the humour, anxiety, and childlike wonder of the artist at her best. Actually, the same can be said of the whole movie, to be savoured for all its sights, sounds, and dimensions.
Watch the trailer for Pina.