Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wim Wenders' PINA proves (1) a must for dance lovers and (2) that 3D is here to stay

If you love dance -- particularly modern dance, and even more so the work of the dancer/
choreographer Pina Bausch -- I don't see how you can miss Wim Wendersnew film PINA. If you know her work, I suspect you won't mind seeing it fragmented (in the way that Wenders necessarily must in order to make a film like this) because you'll get the bonus of experiencing her troupe, their thoughts and the extreme love they clearly feel for their late leader. If, like me, you are not that familiar with Bausch's oeuvre (that's she in red, below) and have only seen it in snippets (in films such as Talk to Her), this movie will be an eye/mind/heart-opening experience.

As a very young man TrustMovies came to New York City to go to drama school. There, part of the curriculum was dance training under the tutelage of the Martha Graham dancers (Ms Graham herself made an appearance or two at the school during those years). While TM was not much of a dancer, he did love seeing those people do their thing. And that training -- those moves! -- has evidently stuck with him, for seeing Pina and its many excellent dancers brought his long buried love of modern dance to the fore once again.

What Herr Wenders, pictured at right, has accomplished with this film is at least twofold. In addtiion to allowing us to see, in parts, the work of this marvelous choreographer and her troupe, the director has given us a 3D movie in which the depth is so integral to the whole that after viewing this film, you really can't imagine not having that extra depth as part of your experience. (Do try to see this one in the 3D, rather than in the 2D format.) Space -- whether occupied or empty and by whom and how -- is a vital part of dance. The three dimension process allows you to experience space in a way that no other dance film before has managed. Very soon, as you watch this movie, any sense of trick effect falls away and you simply become part of the space itself, and more fully than you could, even at a live dance concert, because the camera, after all, can and does go places that the audience would never be allowed.

The Bausch troupe, too -- full of talent and beauty -- is something to behold. The various dances, the moves, the individual members of such varying age and type bring each dance to life in memorable ways.

The film is by turns emotional and primal (the opening dance, shown in the photo below the poster at top), aggressive, funny (below), thoughtful, surprising, and always beautiful, due to the movement, faces and bodies on display.

The use of the natural elements, particularly earth and water, are dynamic, too, and Wenders' decision to offer site-specific performances, wonderfully varied and on-target, makes the movie all the more visually interesting. (Some of his dissolves are wonders in their own right.)

What are these dances saying? Each viewer is likely to take away his/her own message, but certain of the scenes may make make you a tad uncomfortable.  One of these, in which a group of men literally paw at one fragile woman, is utterly squirm-inducing.

The beauty of the film lies in how it shows us what dance can finally be: giving us ourselves and the world in ways we've never seen. That's what all good art does, and Pina Bausch's dance would appear to be among the best of it.

Pina (from Sundance Selects, 103 minutes) -- which is Germany's submission for this year's Best Foreign Language Film (even though most of its "language" is dance, it is certainly one of the best films of the year) opens Friday, December 23, in New York City at the IFC Center, the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and in Brooklyn at the BAM Rose Cinema. A nationwide, limited roll-out is planned, beginning in January.

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