Pina (2011)

by - February 17th, 2012 - Movie Reviews

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Glorious Pina an Inspirational Dance of Life 

I can’t say I knew anything about the German choreographer Pina Bausch before watching director Wim Wenders’ (Wings of Desire, The Buena Vista Social Club) remarkable 3-D documentary Pina. I remembered her “Café Müller” sequence from Pedro Almodóvar’s Talk to Her, but that was admittedly only after her dancers started discussing and staging it during the doc. As much as I love watching movies about dance or attending live performances it’s not like this subject sits comfortably inside my personal wheelhouse, and so my understanding of what made the Bausch such an international sensation before I watched Wenders’ doc was pretty much zilch.

PHOTO: IFC Films

The filmmaker understands that a lot of viewers are going to be coming from a similar place as myself when they enter the theatre. He gets that what we don’t know about the vagaries of dance we will certainly make up for in our understanding of imagination, ingenuity, inspiration and pure unfiltered creative acumen. Without an extensive backstory, without a lot of talking heads spending countless minutes expounding on Pina’s genius, Wenders lets her work and the talents of the dancers she spent so much of her time with speak for itself. This is a movie that thrives on the ability of the human form to break through perceived boundaries and burst past what is conventionally expected, and even if it all isn’t immediately relatable the flair it took to bring it to life remains undeniable.

Much like Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Wenders using 3-D photography as a vehicle to put the viewer inside the frame, drawing us even further onto the stage right there with the dancers. It felt like I was wandering between the chairs of “Café Müller,” standing in the middle of the auditorium with the men and women putting them on display in “Kontakthof,” mulling around in the dirt of “Le Sacre du printemps,” floating through the cascading raindrops of “Vollmond.” The audience is there with them, is part of the performance, and as such we all get a chance to experience a form of pure visceral creative expression unlike almost anything I’ve ever experienced.

Do I know any more about Pina Bausch now than I did before I sat down for the press screening? No, not really, but I do feel like I understand her genius in ways I never could have without watching Wenders’ visually resplendent film. Seeing her fellow dancers celebrate her life and work standing atop trolley lines, in the middle of surging streams or in the center of a glass house reflecting their every move I was overcome with emotion. Pina is a celebration, a passionate dance of life, love and inspiration that transcends the screen to become something as timeless, and as hopeful, as the innovative and remarkable woman whose life it chronicles.

Film Rating: 3½ (out of 4)