Sunday, March 4, 2012

PINA (2011)

Directed by Wim Wenders

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA.  February 26, 2012  2:35 PM

"Pina" started out to be a standard documentary about German choreographer, Pina Bausch whose ideas felt much more darker, emotional and thought-provoking than what is usually found in traditional modern dance but she unexpectedly passed away shortly before shooting was to begin. Director Wim Wenders was going to walk away from the project but was convinced by Ms Bausch's international troupe of dancers to continue on with the film as a way to honor the memory of this extraordinary artist.

With the addition of 3D photography, what was ultimately created is a glorious cinematic explosion of movement that never felt contained by the screen and expresses something more aligned to the unconventional work of the choreographer. "Pina" is a celebration of the talent and spirit that was Pina and her amazing ability to share her thoughts and feelings through dance.

Four key dance pieces are displayed; Le sacre du printemps, Café Müller, Kontakthof, and Vollmond, which best represents the work of Ms Bausch but the performances are not limited only to the stage. There were various locations used in the city of Wuppertal, Germany including the Schwebebahn, a suspension railway. The ensemble, made up of a wide assortment of ages and body shapes, use large, exaggerated movements that may appear jarring and extreme but there is a peculiar beauty to each dance that evokes such powerful emotions.

"Pina" was submitted for both Best Documentary as well as Germany's submission for Best Foreign-Language Film at this year's Academy Awards and, somewhat surprisingly, received a nomination in the former category. I found it unusual as this film doesn't fit comfortably as an actual documentary as almost the entire film is made up of recreating Ms Bausch's dance pieces although we occasionally hear and see the artist in archival footage.

It would have interesting to have heard the thought process behind Ms Bausch's work but we do get some idea of the woman herself through many of the core dancers of her company who share their memories on how she could be demanding and intimidating but also how she had the capability to delicately coax a performer out of their shell with very few words.

I thought the use of 3D might be a bit of a distraction but far from it as it added unexpected textures to each dance as it connected you deeper to every step the dancers made. Known for his use of distinctive cinematography, Mr.Wenders is in his element as it allows him to push the boundaries on how the technique can be used in film. "Pina" shows that it's not necessary to have objects flying at your face to be effective.

Not much of a fan of interpretive dance? You might, unwisely, consider passing on "Pina" but if you're open to entering the surreal world of Pina Bausch, it will definitely challenge and expand your mind. You will be treated to an uncommon but remarkably vibrant, three-dimensional experience that you will never forget.