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I had a lot of preconceived ideas about this documentary before seeing
it. They all came flat whenever I entered a Parisian movie house on the
Champs-Élysées. That is to say, a few hours ago the 6 of April being
the French release date of Pina.
I was initially skeptical about the 3-D. The wave of Hollywood-like and -made items following Avatar has not convinced me. The new technique has remained a mere gimmick, funny and compelling at first sight, but eventually tedious. In this rather commercial context, Wim Wenders seems to be first « classical filmmaker » to use it for artistic purposes, that is as an adequate medium to render the complexity of Pina Bausch's choreography. Also, the critical reception during the Berlinale turned out rather positively. Nevertheless several reviews insisted upon the unrealistic effects of 3-D : the dancers' body would seem strangely « clean », almost virtual. I tended to agree with these considerations. I quickly understood my mistake. Wenders never uses 3-D for the sake of 3-D. Most of the time the viewer forgets its existence. It only appears from time to time : a sudden big shot, leaves floating in the air, drops of water falling on human skin, curtains dividing the space Theses are all magical moments. They reveal a new way of seeing reality and contain the premise of a might-able aesthetic revolution. Till the 1950's people used to dream in black-white. Perhaps, soon, I will be dreaming in 3-D.
On the other hand, I expected much of the Wender-Bausch dialog. Of course, with Pina dying on the eve of filming, the dialog could only have been posthumous. Well, the result is not so good. The film composes a beautiful, moving elegy to a great artist, but nothing more. After a first, innovating and convincing half-hour, Wenders' narration becomes repetitive and monotonous. It's mostly a serial of individual focus on dancers who all equally says how fine Pina was and sorry they are about her death. The film does not go beyond an extensive, overlong tribute. Preceding Wender's documentaries really showed the in and out of things : Tokyo-Ga revealed the paradoxical legacy of Ozu, and the Buena Vista Social Club the spontaneous life of the homonymous music band. Here, there is no paradox and not much spontaneity. Strangely enough a 3-D film only reveals a one-dimensional image of Pina Bausch : an unaccessible goddess, far away from the livings, and far away from the living person she was.
My final statement : an overlong documentary, but, probably, the cinematic experiment of the year. It's not a must-like, but a definite must-see. Eight out of ten.
Let me start by saying, that this movie has no story. And it is not a
documentary, as I would define it. So what is this movie? I have no
idea! I am not into modern dance, but I was impressed and exited at the
same time while watching the actors dance (or act? or create? or??).
There are four longer dance parts and plenty of small pieces, small interviews and only a tiny part with Pina Bausch. The locations for the scenes where great. The 3d effect was great, the stage seems real, and the dancers were just amazing. I felt sorry as I discovered how limited language is. This dance told more about the emotions than any words could.
To put this review in context, I went to see this film with no previous
interest in contemporary dance. I have always put it into that category
of 'things I just don't understand'. I understand it's a way of
communication, but it's one that has never communicated to me. So my
thoughts on this film probably won't have any interest to you if you
are already a dance fan or a dancer or a fan of Pina Bausch in
particular. But if, like me, you have heard that this is a visual feast
of a film, or just that it is a Wim Wenders documentary, and are
wondering whether to go see it for those reasons, this might help you
I was a reluctant viewer because it was clear from the beginning that I still didn't 'get' it - what did it all mean? But visually, physically, this film ended up astounding me. It has stuck with me such that I can't stop thinking about it.
As a documentary, it doesn't do much to reveal its subject. It doesn't say much about how this woman thought, how she felt, her journey and what influenced it, what tortured her, what she was in denial about and how she related to the wider society. These are the revelations I expect in a 'great' documentary film. Films such as 'Man on Wire', 'Grizzly Man' or 'When We Were Kings'. Maybe those things are communicated though the dance itself. I don't know. Almost the whole film is dancing, interspersed with very short recollections from individual dancers. What these do get across are that Pina Bausch had a way of communicating with people and a depth of feeling that is unusual and wonderful. Those who worked with her (at least those that were interviewed) have the greatest love and admiration for her and what she was able to bring out of them. I ended up with a great feeling of admiration for her myself. Perhaps that was the point of the documentary.
But for me, it was the dancing and the way it was filmed that was astounding. It comes across with such intensity, such belief and such love, that I almost became a fan of contemporary dance. The sheer physicality. The bodies and what people could do with them. The beauty of movement. It is simply a joy to watch.
The quality of the visuals is startling. I saw it at a local arts centre which has a very good screen but I've never seen anything as sharp and as detailed as this. And the colours seemed more vivid than is usual. It was like discovering a new form of super high definition film. I understand it was filmed in 3D although I saw the 2D version. Still, it was amazing to watch. The way it is filmed also seems to work very well. It seems pretty straightforward. Most of the dance sequences are filmed quite simply on stage, but the framing seems to bring out the subjects well, even in 2D. Wenders has also filmed individual dancers or pairs of dancers in various outdoor locations - a city street, a road intersection, a train, an open cast mine. These little pieces are so beautiful and so unexpected. There is even one that is intentionally funny, where a girl gets on a train and pretends to be a robot monster. It's hilarious! So, for me a wonderful surprise. I still didn't end up understanding much of what Pina Bausch was trying to communicate but I enjoyed watching her try.
Pina makes me wish I knew more about dance, though I suspect not all
dance and dancers are so accessible or emotionally charged, by choice.
At moments I was moved nearly to tears, I wanted to answer the question
Pina reportedly put often to her dancers, "what do you long for," with
the answer "beautyand this could serve for now." I saw this tonight at
Vancouver International Film Festival in 3D on the strength of its
description and Wenders being the director and I'm very glad I did. One
of the hallmarks of strong cinema, for me, is an altered perception of
the world when I leave the film, which sometimes lasts for a
considerable time: the vision of the film awakening me to what is
around me. I found tonight not only a visual but a kinaesthetic
carryover as I walked to the car, drove my friend to the subway, and
then drove home through streets light in traffic. Though normally I
don't care for cars or driving, in the wake of the dance spirit invoked
in this film, I revelled in freedom of movementin movement itselfat
first hand in my own body and at a remove, in the things around me.
This is good stuff.
I will think about scenes such as the woman straining at the end of a rope, about the driven and frenetic movements as well as the lyrical moments and the tributes to Pina, for a while, I think.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
We should be much grateful that Wenders decided after all to make this
documentary. Even more that it is filmed in 3D which allows us to
communicate to Pina Bausch' Art in the most direct and satisfactory
way. Her living dancers (different ages , different nations ,different
cultures, different languages, one common goal: Dancing as a High
Expression of Art and Inner Being) are her legacy.
Some of them speak shortly to the camera about their teacher and her remarks to them , some others only stare at us. They express whatever they have to say through their dance. Words are not necessary. Doesn't the same thing apply to Pina, herself? The most important thing in Great Art is the Art itself, and not the personal details of the private lives of the artists themselves. Wenders understands that completely, paying respect to her unexpected death, as well as the fact that if Pina had been alive, by the time of the filming, he could have made a completely different documentary than the one he delivered to us. So, he leaves her choreographies to talk on her behalf. A wise decision along with the other great one: to keep himself as a director in as a low profile as he can. After all his film glorifies Pina, not himself. Rarely have we met such a maturity as that in a director's job.
And don't worry: through the few minutes we see Pina herself dancing ,we can appreciate her supreme and unsurpassed art of her dancing.
Watching the film proves to be a very moving and rewarding experience, a true homage to great art.
Go see it.
I have finally seen a movie which gives me the instinct that this is why this whole film-thing was invented in the first place.
Quick notes: -Music choices fine to excellent, no problem there. -3D absolutely effective and relevant.
I give this a 10 but was brooding to deduct a point for the perhaps slightly out-of-balance weight to...the brooding self-seriousness (humour and fun also abound).
But, no, I'm just being poopy, it really does deserve the full 10.
Before seeing it, I was fortunate to hear an hour-long interview on the CBC Ideas radio program with Wim Wenders. That filled in the blanks of the back story which is not shown in the film itself, so that was very helpful.
Pina, wherever you are, you really did teach me a huge thing or two: Thank You !!
Whether Wender's work is considered a film, eulogy or a documentary, I
can say that I have never felt so much for a production of moving
pictures before that I would feel the necessity to express my thoughts
through written words.
I have a great passion for dance and used to practice it a lot more a few years ago. Hence, this film was a must-see for me whatever whoever says. The downside with dance on film is the failure of the screen to convey depth, and I didn't find the 3D effects particularly impressing here, I must admit. But then again, without it, I am sure it would be hard not to get dull watching 100 minutes of flat images, sometimes randomly and unexpectedly cut of the context.
Because there is no storyline in the film. Not very much of replicas either to explain in clear words why or if the different pieces are linked together, and definitely nothing to tell about Pina Bausch's private life. But that is also what makes this film so clean and consistent; dance says it all.
If Pina lived today, her presence in the film would certainly be more evident to us. The film would let us follow her and her dance company on performances with more straight forward dialogues. Instead, the spirit of Pina is expressed through dance here. Dance is the way she would use to communicate her messages to the world, so why would words then be necessary? Even less, why would personal details of her life matter in this film when what we will remember of her, as with other known names throughout the history, will be for their creations, inspirations and contributions to our world?
Pina's art is shown piece by piece in the film featuring choreographies and performing arts carried out by her closest dancers in different milieux. Both outdoors in the open landscape and modern cityscape, as well as indoors on a stage. It expresses diversity and unity at the same time, gives life to poetry and most remarkably, making music visible in a way that I have not seen in a film before. It describes relationships between men and women, young and old, human and nature, along with senses of loneliness, yearning, passion, pain and joy mixed with a dose of subtle humour.
And they are all performed by a group of highly skillful professionals of different ages, nationalities and languages, whom sometimes, through open monologues, give us an insight on Pina's character. Not only do they reach out to touch by movements, but also through empathy and facial expressions of compassion, making them very credible actors/actresses.
To sum up: If you can deal with lack of dialogues without getting bored, make sure then to have some understanding about dance, or a general interest in art and scenography to truly appreciate this film. It is a definition of beauty and a way to remember Pina Bausch.
Pina is being classed as a musical, but it's more of a documentary.
More than this, it's a cinematic eulogy to Pina Bausch, one of the
world's most influential dancers.
The filmic concept is simple. Footage consisting mainly of contemporary performances of Pina's ballets performed by her dancers is interposed with archive footage of the legendary figure herself. Each dancer, at their turn, looks squarely at the camera and offers their own recollection of how Pina inspired them. This is followed by a demonstration of their learning.
It seems that filming dance is making a comeback in cinema. But after seeing 'Black Swan' and now this, I wonder if dance loses something on the big screen? Maybe the realism or the urgency. Definitely something. It's the same with music concerts. You have to be there.
I'm of the opinion that you have to be an artist to understand other artists. They're a different breed. Where else, for instance, would the remark 'you just have to get crazier' be appropriate if not in dance? Some scenes are bizarre. No they're not. They're mad. Mad like Pina told her students to be. There are some arresting images, which to tease us, Wenders doesn't linger on.
The predictable comment being made of Wenders' film is that it is surreal. I don't believe it is truly surreal. Yes, some of the visuals are unusual like the Australian dancer who dances with abandon on a street corner with cars driving past and a train travelling upside down. Or the act involving two men spitting water at each other. Or better still the act with a man pulling his trousers up and down. But I swear the effects seem remarkably natural.
I was agape throughout the scene where one dancer in a serene industrial site shows a couple of cuts of meat to us and shouts 'veal!' before dancing on her tiptoes for what seemed like forever. Where was the beauty? I wondered after. I can't explain it. It is just there.
There's nothing snobbish about this film. There's not much that is esoteric either. The music is eclectic and the nationalities of the dancers are diverse. Pina united people. This film isn't exclusively for dance lovers; it's for admirers of culture.
Although I would find a second viewing of Pina to be quite taxing, I have no trouble in recommending it to anyone. It's unlike anything I've seen. It expresses beauty in a way I did not think plausible.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had no interest in dance, contemporary, experimental or classic.
Until, way back, I saw Sacre du Printemps by Pina Bausch. OK, I was a
huge fan of Stravinsky and knew every note of the Sacre. I had no idea
it could be taken to a whole new level. But for me, Bausch's
interpretation did just that.
---- Spoiler ahead ------
The movie starts with big portions of the Sacre in 3D. Wow! For two reasons. The 3D creates a very spatial experience (duhhh...) that I've never seen applied to realistic footage. Secondly, some of the shots are taken from the perspective of one of the dancers. ------- end spoiler -------
So after ten minutes I was totally taken away by it. It's a wonderful eulogy. I felt hot tears running down my cheeks frequently and at unexpected moments. The imagery is jaw dropping. some sequences are breathtaking. I never slept more peaceful after seeing this movie.
But then again, I think my own kids and wife are the most beautiful creatures on the whole planet. And I think very few people would agree with me. I guess I'm looking at them with my heart and soul rather than with my eyes and analytical, judgmental mind (that tells me, reading this back, that I'm overly sentimental about this; but that's just the way it is).
Pina Bausch died just prior to this being made. I was familiar with her
just briefly from Almodovar's Talk To Her, but sadly not more and not
live. So, at least for the time being, this is as much as we'll get to
know her, independent of her being here to explain, assuming she would
at all, and this is perhaps the most fitting part. We'll get to know
her in the purest sense possible, by what dance stirred her heart.
Because in a sense you are what you have embodied and made life from,
everything else being words, roles, play-acting, it is more than enough
to have just this. It is what dance is all about.
And this is how she handled her troupe, as a director herself. Hints, abstract frameworks. How it comes across in the actual dance is a marvel; the debris of unfinished thoughts in the midst of empty space, of course the entire flow framed small in empty stages, but in each person as well, bits of recognizable motion in the midst of syncopated blurs, half-finished gestures of story.
We see plenty of I assume excerpts of her dances, all of them more or less captivating. I do not know a thing about the medium, so I will let aficionados explain the importance of how she innovated form. She might as well have been an inverse Beckett for all I know, danced, acting out hurt that he repressed.
But I am interested in film, and how images can seduce into the surface the core of our being. And what Pina do the images reveal? Lonely, hurt, strong, frantic search. An anxious sexuality at heart, or better yet the prospect of touch, connection.
And it is important to note, this connection with her players, and by extension ourselves as viewers. All of them without exception are baffled to communicate their relationship with her, as though it was so visceral, so 'now', it is impossible to relate after the fact, disembodied in words. I'm sure they could all say it with a dance, wonderfully so. It is even possible that not all of them got her - one of them dedicates weightlessness in her memory, where Pina was all about weight and pull.
But the're all definitely sure of one thing, that she looked into their innermost self.
Meddlesome words again, 'that she looked into their innermost self'. Watching the film, this is what I get the sense Pina accomplished: she allowed empty space around these people, not over-directing, not explaining every gesture, perhaps not even communicating a whole point or story, reflecting this in the actually sparse surroundings she prepared around them, so at her smallest hint they poured into that space their own spontaneous being. They came out having bared self, having made sense - body, motion - what used to be words, ideas, having been one with just the moment. Pina had only made it possible they do.
She asked one of her dancers to portray joy, as simple as this. He offered his version, personal self, and she choreographed a scene around it.
So there it is in a nutshell, a valuable insight for us viewers. This is something you watch without the need to know what it means, trusting it does in the exchange.
Oh, there is Wenders in all this. Wenders is a frame artist, always looking for something to frame and apply colors to. Most of the time he has dull insights. In Tokyo-Ga, he set out to frame Ozu but missed by so much it made me cringe. Here he comes across a woman that is unfettered soul. He does not puzzle about how you film dance, trusting she has taken care of even that. He does not get in the way too much, most of the time carving with his camera soft paths inside the dance. His dull insight, in an attempt to somehow address the cinematic experience, is the whole as one more staged performance before an audience - many re-enactions on different stages occur in the film, some of them projected on a screen. But he does not turn any of this into a story, which is bound to alienate most viewers.
It is perhaps lucky that Wenders did this, opposed to say someone like Almodovar who commands deeply layered vision. Like Pina's dancers, he is an empty vessel. She fills with the joy of color.
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